19.06.2024 18:30 h

Croatia coach Dalic bemoans 'really bad' added time

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic was left regretting a "really bad" injury time display from his team after they blew a late lead against Albania to be held to a damaging 2-2 draw at Euro 2024 on Wednesday.

The 2022 World Cup semi-finalists and last year's Nations League runners-up recovered from a lacklustre first half and one-goal deficit to move in front with 14 minutes left.

But they sat back late on and were made to pay as Albania midfielder Klaus Gjasula grabbed a 95th-minute equaliser.

"We wanted to drop deep without any need to do so," Dalic told a post-match press conference.

"We didn't tell them to drop deep, we wanted them to score the third goal, to press.

"So it was weird, it was an error. We shouldn't have allowed the opponent to come onto us.

"This added time was really bad, there was a struggle without any need to play like that."

Croatia will now probably have to beat holders Italy in their final Group B match on June 24 to progress to the knockout phase for a fifth straight major tournament, after suffering an opening 3-0 loss to Spain last week.

Croatia have enjoyed an unprecedented spell of success since a surprise run to the World Cup final in 2018, when they lost to France.

There are fears the Euros in Germany could be the end of an era for a team including 38-year-old Luka Modric, 35-year-old Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric, who marked his 33rd birthday on Wednesday with a goal.

"This is a different tournament, a different story," said Dalic.

"We didn't expect to have such a difficult story in these two matches so it's been a struggle.

"Maybe that's the way to get out of it even better. The World Cup was two years ago and our players are getting older."

Croatia are not the only fancied side to flatter to deceive so far in the group stage, with favourites France and England grinding out 1-0 wins over Austria and Serbia respectively.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal needed a late winner to beat the Czech Republic, while Belgium suffered a shock defeat by Slovakia.

"This tournament, it's been difficult. Portugal, it was difficult for them against Czechia, England against Serbia... so this tournament is very open and the teams are pretty equal," Dalic added.

"The most important thing is we are still alive, we have to go for the win against Italy."