Moscow, July 16 (IANS) Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic feels his team played the best match of the FIFA World Cup despite losing 4-2 to France in the final here on Sunday.
“I congratulate France on their title. We played well in the first 20 minutes, we controlled the game. Then there was an own goal from a set play. We came back to life, dominated and then the penalty was given,” Dalic was quoted as saying by fifa.com after the game.
A first-ever own goal in a World Cup final gave France the lead as Mario Mandzukic headed a free-kick into his own net in the 18th minute but Croatia pulled level through a strike from Ivan Perisic in the 28th minute.
Antoine Griezmann converted a penalty in the 38th minute to regain France’s lead which was further increased to 3-1 by Paul Pogba in the 59th minute.
Kylian Mbappe (65th) made it 4-1 before Mandzukic pounced on a blunder from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to reduce the difference to two in the 69th minute, giving some hope to Croatia. But the third goal from Croatia never arrived as the talented French side, coached by Didier Deschamps sealed a deserving triumph.
“I have to congratulate my players, it was maybe the best game we played in these championships; we controlled the match but we conceded,” Dalic further said.
He added that Croatia, playing their first-ever World Cup final, can be very proud of their achievements.
“Against such a strong side as France you must not make mistakes. We are a bit sad but we have to be proud as well for what we’ve done.”
Croatia’s celebrated FC Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic said they were unlucky to have not won the crown despite being the better team in the first period.
“We were the better team in the first half, we were attacking, but we were unlucky tonight. They scored four goals from their three shots on goal. But I congratulate France, they deserved it.”
France thus pulled level with South American powerhouses Argentina (1978, 1986) and Uruguay (1930, 1950) as the third nation with two World Cup titles.