Head coach Slaven Bilic paid tribute to his Croatia side after a 1-0 defeat to Spain which saw them exit Euro 2012 at the first hurdle.
Having held tournament favourites Spain until late in the match, a Jesus Navas winner crushed all hopes of a Croatian presence in the quarter-finals, despite a very good showing over the three matches.Bilic told Croatian TV station HRT: "I want to congratulate my players. It was a heroic game but unfortunately we didn't win. We defended very well, and we knew that we'll have our chances. We had the best ones in the match, but didn't use them. If we did we would be play in the quarter-finals.
"We tried everything. We defended, then we tried to press, to attack, everything was open, but at the end that was not enough. We came to win this Euro and the plan was not accomplished, but no matter, we left a good impression."Bilic, who will now leave his post to take over the manager's job at Lokomotiv Moscow, believes that the team he leaves behind are all set to achieve success in the years to come.
"But this is a fantastic generation, they will be better in two years from now, and we can have a great results in the future. Thank you for putting up with me."Experienced midfielder Ognjen Vukojevic shared his manager's optimism for the future post match, after putting in a fine performance for his side.
"Unfortunately, we feel sad now. We did our best, fought for every ball, but lost at the end," he said. "I think we have a bright future, we proved that here. At the end, we lacked some luck, and you need luck to beat Spain. But we are going home with our heads held high."Nikica Jelavic added: "We let them play, we didn't use our chances. We did everything we planned, except that, but I think we deserved to go through."