Zlatko Dalic said his Croatia bench were ready to run on the pitch to stop a Spain counter-attack before Tin Jedvaj struck a dramatic late winner in Thursday’s Nations League clash.
Jedvaj’s second of the game, in the 93rd minute, secured a 3-2 victory in Zagreb to set up a winner-takes-all clash against England at Wembley on Sunday.
The victor will progress to the Nations League finals while the loser will be relegated from League A, with a draw sending pool leaders Spain through.
And Dalic, who led Croatia to the World Cup final after beating England in the semis, indicated he was prepared to take drastic action in the closing stages while his side poured forward in attack.
“It’s an image that has to go into history: we are attacking with all players in the last minute,” Dalic said after his side’s win.
“It was a strange situation with two unmarked Spaniards in the centre. We were even ready to run out from the bench in order to prevent a possible Spanish counter-attack.
“I called and screamed, but no one wanted to go back. Everyone went in for a shot. It was about the character of the players, their power and strength.”
54′ Andrej Kramarić
56′ Dani Ceballos
69′ Tin Jedvaj
78′ Sergio Ramos
90+3 Tin Jedvaj
— UEFA Nations League (@UEFAEURO) November 15, 2018
Spain coach Luis Enrique complained the result was unfair, telling reporters: “Under no circumstances did we deserve to lose.”
And Ivan Rakitic, who played under Luis Enrique at Barcelona, accepted Croatia rode their luck to snatch a 3-2 win.
“First of all, we have seen a great football match. The people in the stadium and at home have enjoyed a great game,” Rakitic, who was replaced with an injury in the second half, said to Teledeporte. “The last goal came with a bit of luck and this victory gives strength to the group.
“When you play in such a group and you see the other groups, you realise that we did not have much luck in the draw, but this is the beautiful thing: now we have to play at Wembley and fight to be first.”
— HNS | CFF (@HNS_CFF) November 15, 2018
Captain Luka Modric denied pre-match that his side were out for revenge after a 6-0 thrashing against Spain in September, but he accepted Croatia wanted to right the wrongs of that loss.
“Of course we were motivated, especially because of the serious defeat in Elche, but the full stadium was our second important motive,” Modric said. “Such a great atmosphere raised us, especially at the critical stages of the game, and I believe that such support will now become a tradition.
“Players who came from the bench brought new energy, an extra dimension, and we need it. They showed that they belong in the national team and will surely continue to grow in the coming games. We have to have a good rest, [it will be] a fast match with England, it will be hard again against an excellent rival, but I believe we will gather strength.”
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