Croatia boss says 'football's coming home' very soon after loss to England
LONDON -- Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic said he believes "football's coming home" very soon after his side were beaten 2-1 by England in their UEFA Nations League group finale.
England's bright start was undone when Andrej Kramaric's deflected effort gave Croatia the lead with their first shot on target early in the second half, but Gareth Southgate's men pulled off a stirring comeback to secure a place in the Nations League final four next summer.
Jesse Lingard, on as a substitute, poked in an equaliser after Harry Kane had controlled Kyle Walker's long throw and Kane then sent Wembley into raptures by steering Ben Chilwell's inviting free kick beyond Lovre Kalinic.
When asked how this England team compared to the one his side knocked out of the World Cup semifinals in July, Dalic simply smiled: "Football's coming home... very soon."
Unlike in the World Cup semifinal meeting between the two teams in Moscow last summer, it was England who enjoyed the majority of possession and created a greater number of scoring opportunities, but Modric did not seem as convinced as his manager that Southgate's men have gone up a level in the last four months.
"I don't know," he replied when asked if England have improved. "That's maybe more a question for them to assess if they are improving or not. I see them as a good team, a young team. They have a bright future in front of them. They are in the final four of this UEFA Nations League and it's showing that they are in a good way."
Modric and his Croatia teammates stoked their rivalry with England following their World Cup triumph by claiming they felt disrespected by the words of English pundits ahead of the game, as well as the "football's coming home" slogan used by Southgate's team and their supporters.
The song was pointedly played on the final whistle at Wembley as England celebrated their victory, but Modric insisted: "I don't care.
"We just said how we felt at the World Cup and that's it. We don't need to go back and talk about this. That's finished. This was a new game so we don't need to make more comments about this.
"We said what we meant, how we felt, and that's it. I don't want to change what we said because we felt that way, but it doesn't matter.
"Between players, between teams there's huge respect. Like I said last time, I don't want to talk about it anymore.
"We respect England, they respect us. I didn't mean about players and coaches. I meant people around England and that's it."
And Modric said he thought his Croatia side was the better of the two, while lamenting their failure to control England at set pieces being the main reason they lost.
"We lost it at set pieces," he said. "It's a bit painful to lose this way, because we prepared well for set pieces. We knew that England is dangerous from set pieces but in the end again they scored two goals. It's painful but apart from the first 20, 25 minutes we were the better team.
"They could have scored one or two goals in the beginning and they didn't, but we started to dominate the game. We scored that goal in the second half, we could have scored a second one and that would probably have been the end for them. But we didn't and they scored two goals from set pieces, and that's it."