Niko Kovac did not hold back on his Croatia players after they dropped out of an automatic Euro 2016 spot in their qualifying group courtesy of a 2-0 loss to Norway on Sunday.
Kovac’s men lost for the first time in Group H, leaving them in the play-off spot on 15 points – behind Italy (18) and Norway (16) with two games to play.
The defeat followed a 0-0 stalemate with lowly Azerbaijan, and Kovac was livid his side lost a top-two place in Oslo.
“Croatia was non-existent, not counting the first 10 minutes of the second half,” Kovac said via the Croatian Football Federation. “This was a very lousy performance, Norway was better in every way.
“We knew what to expect, but did not perform accordingly.
“He who plays with a lot of courage and desire can win the match, and Norway proved that.
“I congratulate them, they have deserved to win.”
Kovac said Croatia’s approach to the competition had to improve, but conceded their automatic hopes were far from dashed by the result.
“We can still reach our goal in the final two matches, but only if we show the right attitude, as we did in the first six games in this group,” the 43-year-old said.
“We have to finally realise that great players from great clubs have to prove themselves on the field.
“We have all failed in Norway, and I take all the responsibility, but the question remains, ‘Why has this happened?’
“I have never surrendered, and I will not surrender now.”
He added: “Norway has shown us, in a brilliant performance, what it means to play for each other, to fight like lions, to run from the beginning until the very end. We have missed all that.”