Ante Cacic believes Croatia’s current crop can make a lasting impression on international football after their Euro 2016 campaign was ended by Portugal on Saturday.
Ricardo Quaresma’s 117th-minute goal eliminated Croatia in the last 16, after a 2-1 Group D win over Spain had prompted some to suggest that Cacic’s men could be title candidates.
Croatia’s campaign was tumultuous to say the least, with their 2-2 draw against Czech Republic disrupted by their fans fighting among themselves and subsequent threats of trouble amid protests against the Croatian Football Federation.
But Cacic hailed his players’ ability to focus solely on their game, and suggested the 2018 World Cup in Russia could be fruitful.
He told a news conference: “In the group stages, Portugal had 25 shots at their opponents’ goal and dominated possession, while against us they had five shots and possession was 60-40 in our favour.
“When was the last time [Cristiano] Ronaldo had one shot in an entire game? We fully neutralised them, we had five or six good situations and I am very proud of how my team played in the match and the whole tournament.
“Despite all the circumstances surrounding this national team since its return from Brazil – the riots in qualifying, deduction of points – Croatia were not outplayed at the Euros and the European and world public said we played the best football.”
Cacic added: “[Darijo] Srna is playing the best football of his career and I hope he will not say goodbye to the national team.
“[Luka] Modric, [Ivan] Rakitic and [Ivan] Perisic have never been better for Croatia, we have a hero in [Vedran] Corluka, [Mario] Mandzukic is working mightily.
“This is not the end of this generation, we have players who are coming, but we have another problem, inadequate treatment in their own country.”
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