Zlatko Dalic took aim at the “nonsense” decision to add eight minutes of time to Croatia’s match against Italy, having seen Mattia Zaccagni score with the very last action to leave his side all but out of the European Championship.

Zaccagni’s goal followed an opener by Luka Modric that seemed to have given Croatia second place. But Italy dramatically leapfrogged them and Dalic, who has taken Croatia to second- and third-placed finishes at the past two World Cup tournaments, knows two points are unlikely to send them to the last 16. He suggested the extended period of added time given by the refe­ree, Danny ­Makkelie, was a symbol of the authorities’ ­attitude to a nation that punches above its weight.

“We are a small country,” he said. “No one gave us so much thought but you can’t have eight minutes, it is a nonsense. I don’t want to cause a fuss about what’s gone on but ­Croatia needs to be respected, recognised and acknowledged. Unfortunately we have to stand up for ourselves. I want to thank the lads for their commitment and effort.

“[The outcome] really hurts. It still hurts and will hurt over the coming days and months. It’s not easy, but when we look in general there are some days when it is your day some it is not, occasionally you lose. That is football.”

Modric became the oldest scorer at a European Championship, over­taking the record set by Ivica Vastic. “I’ll keep playing on, I don’t know how much longer,” he said when asked about his future. He has signed a new one-year deal at Real Madrid but his prospects of continuing with Croatia are yet to be made clear.

The 38-year-old looked desolate after the final whistle. “It’s very stressful,” he said. “We kept battling right to the end but unfortunately football is merciless. Tonight it’s cruel. Football gives you smiles but sometimes it makes you sad like it did today. It’s hard, when you lose like this, to describe how you feel.”

In a lengthy and sometimes explosive press conference notable for a run-in with a journalist who suggested he had made a “pact” with his players in changing to a 3-5-2 formation, Luciano Spalletti said Italy’s progress was merited and took aim at criticism of his side.

“We deserve to go through tonight, we deserve it in terms of what we produced out there,” he said.

“Croatia could have won the game. But don’t take the piss out of us because we lost a game [against Spain]. There is venom coming from all sides, and I inject the venom inside me myself if it doesn’t, because I need to be at the level and I react.”

2024-06-24T23:29:46Z dg43tfdfdgfd