Coach Slaven Bilic believes the absence of Arsenal striker Eduardo counted against his defeated Croatia side at Euro 2008.
Bilic, facing the media here on Saturday after the night before's crushing penalty shoot-out quarter-final loss to Turkey, said: “I've already mentioned this but I would have liked Eduardo to be in the squad for the tournament.
“Sometimes we lacked bite in attack. Without him, we had problems in finishing.”
Eduardo was ruled out of Euro 2008 after suffering a compound fracture of the left leg following a tackle from Birmingham defender Martin Taylor in February.
Bilic had already described the forward's absence as “a handicap”, saying the team felt his absence in training and at matches.
Despite that though Croatia enjoyed a superb championships, winning their three group games, including a defeat of Germany, and only coming up short against comeback merchants Turkey.
Ivan Klasnic appeared to have put them into the last four on Friday with his 119th minute header in Vienna on Friday only for the Turks to level in the dying seconds and then win 3-1 on penalties.
He said he had only pride for his players “from the first day to the last penalty against Turkey”.
“Without wishing to show a lack of respect to Turkey we deserved to win this quarter-final,” insisted the 39-year-old who refused to be drawn on whether he would stay on as Croatia manager or return to club football.
“The elimination is still too close, it's not the moment to make crucial decisions.”
Reflecting on the atmosphere in the Croat dressing room immediately after Friday's loss Bilic said: “It was sad. It was a shock. Some players were angry, others were crying.
“We, the players and myself, wanted to kill ourselves, but life continues.
“Our objective was to make it to the final. That's why I'm disappointed and sad after being knocked out.
“At first we were happy to make it to the quarters. But very quickly, after that, we wanted to go still further. The final was the target.”
Bilic, whose stock has soared at these championships, was then asked what were his immediate plans.
He replied: “To watch the rest of Euro 2008.”
That will include sitting down on Wednesday and seeing Turkey, and not Croatia, face up to Germany in the semi-final in Basel.
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