Dalic: Conceding first two goals from set-pieces proved costly

France benefited from Croatia conceding a free-kick in the defence half for the first goal, while the second goal came via a penalty.

Croatia's defending in set-pieces didn't help its cause on the night of the final.   -  AFP

It was a night of pain and agony for Croatia as it stopped one short of the World Cup crown. The team that had defied odds to reach the final was ultimately left undone as some vital moments of the game played out in its opponent’s favour. Or at least so coach Zlatko Dalic thought.

“Congratulations to France for their title,” he said. “We played well in the first 20 minutes and then there was this own goal from set play. We came to life and dominated and then the penalty came. In a World Cup final you don’t give such penalty. But that does not diminish France’s game.”

Elaborating further, he added: “We lacked the luck that we had throughout the tournament. The first two goals went against us as we conceded twice from set-pieces. It’s difficult for players to find the energy to get back every time. It’s difficult to come back against such a good France side.”

The manager, who had shaped a formidable side, harnessing all the natural talent available in his team is still proud of the achievements of his players, whose performance has championed the cause of a small nation.

“We were all sad and downcast after the game ended. But, I told them to hold their heads high and be proud of their display. Sometimes in football you lose, but you need to be dignified in defeat too,” the coach said. “The message in our team bus reads ‘A small country with big dreams’. You have to believe it's possible and then many thing need to fall in place. You need an ambition and dream and then the drive to follow it. Maybe in one day it will come true, much like it did for us. In football and life you should never give up. When it was 4-1, I was not out, not defeated. And Croatia has shown that any team can achieve their dreams whether big or small."

Praising the role played by the team’s captain Luka Modric, who was adjudged the best player of the tournament, Dalic said: “We are glad for Luka to win the Golden Ball as he played a terrific tournament. He did lion's share of the work in our play and it’s also a compliment for the team as it supported him.”

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