Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic said he knew his side’s first game since the World Cup final would not be their prettiest after a 1-1 draw with Portugal, but called for an improvement ahead of their Nations League opener against Spain.
Dalic’s men led the European champions after 18 minutes at Estadio Algarve, courtesy of Ivan Perisic’s clinical finish, but Pepe headed Portugal’s equaliser shortly after the half-hour mark in a game the home side dominated.
Portugal attempted 19 shots to Croatia’s five across the duration of the friendly but Dalic defended his side’s somewhat cagey approach.
“I did not even expect beautiful football from our side,” Dalic told reporters. “We played as well as we could.
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“It was not easy this first game after everything. I knew it would be so.
“We made six changes, and Portugal is a very good, fast team.
“But that’s the preparation for the European Championship. Selection and training. Let’s see where we are, what individual players can do.”
Croatia were criticised at times during their World Cup campaign for playing drab, negative football and Dalic admitted his players did little to threaten Portugal’s defence.
He demanded more from his side ahead of Tuesday’s game in Spain, saying: “We were not aggressive enough.
“In the second half we stood firmly, but we were completely harmless in attack.
“Against Spain, however, we have to be better.”
Dalic’s opposite number Fernando Santos, whose side will play Italy at home on Monday in the first of their Nations League games, said: “We gave a successful performance that met my expectations.
“We ended up dominating the game and in the first half the most fair thing was to end up winning for the opportunities that we managed to create.
“It was a good game for a friendly, and we played well against a powerful team.”
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