Euro 2012: Croatia out with head high, Spain put to the test

Proof teams hadn't agreed on draw. Bilic's farewell thanks

19 June, 16:29

(ANSAmed) - ZAGABRIA, JUNE 19 - Croatia is leaving the European Cup with its head high, having made a great impression after the three good matches played in Group C against Ireland, Italy and Spain. All the theories which the Italian media had conjured up over match-fixing behind closed doors with the Red Furies (who are the World and European Champions) were clearly discredited on the pitch, with a fantastic display of football by Bilic's men, who almost managed to eliminate Spain (widely expected to win the tournament).

Today the press in Zagreb isn't hiding its disappointment and sadness over the one-nil defeat last night in Danzig at the hands of Del Bosque's team, for which Croatia have paid with their elimination from Euro 2012. At the same time though the same newspapers are highlighting with great pride the team's performance "who didn't manage to round up a little luck and a referee with good eyesight." "We're proud of you boys" is a front page headline of Vecernji list, summing up the feeling already expressed yesterday by the TV channels, who all praised the team's playing, able to "stay neck and neck with the current champions of both the European and the World Cups." "Croatia goes out with its head held high", is the headline on Jutarnji list, whereas the main sports newspaper, Sportske Novosti, notes how "the Croatian national team can be proud that Spanish players seemed once again only human beings when compared with them".

There have also been some controversies over a number of decisions by the referee, who apparently never saw a foul on Vedran Corluka right in front of the Spanish goal, but the press duly noted that "also the Spanish were denied a penalty kick".

The match was instead the last for coach Slaven Bilic, who commented that "World champions don't need help from the referee." "We are all very disappointed", he added, "our group was very difficult and we played very well in all three matches.

We fought as heroes, but in football it means nothing to be the moral winner. At the 59th minute Rakitic had that brilliant chance, but he just didn't manage to get the ball in. Don't forget that it wasn't him who missed the frame, but it was Casillas who saved it." "I'll dream of that moment for days, it'll be a torment for me," said Rakitic, noting that "it's true: we can be proud to have played well in all three matches, but that doesn't mean much right now." Coach Bilic, when prompted by a journalists' question regarding the 2-2 score and the theory of a fixed match, replied angrily: "I am sure that even you journalists must be ashamed of yourselves to have to ask me this kind of question." Bilic, who from July will be managing Lokomotiv Moscow, said goodbye after six years at the head of the Croatian national team.

"To be honest I never thought this would be my last match and I haven't prepared any speech, I just want to thank the Croatian football federation, the players and the fans, and for having put up with me all these years." (ANSAmed).

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