Croatia got beaten by England 4-2, but they put up a good fight (even at the end). England played well even with Beckham not doing much (he has been more of a liability for the English so far). The game was good for the first 30 minutes, good pace, and Croatia was leading 1-0. But then, for some unknown reason, the Croatian coach told the players to slow down, to be more defensive. I mean England was playing fairly well at that stage of the game (even down by a goal) and they were getting tired (the Croatian players were doing ok thus far). That directive pretty much changed the direction of the game: England was able to slow down, regroup and attack the net. England got the tying goal and then Rooney came through and the rest is history!
Sure Croatia made some attacks (even got within a goal in the second half), but the injuries and substitutions (not to mention not playing certain players in their natural positions) brought an end to any chance of a comeback. I mean Baric (the Croatian coach) hand-picked striker Klasnic, who refused an offer to play for the German national team, and never played him once (not even as a substitute)! To be fair, Baric did get Croatia to qualify for Euro 2004, but he had the talent in the team to have a shot at advancing past the group stages (even if France and England were in the same group as Croatia). A sign of this talent was seen in the tie with France (which almost became a Croatian victory). Fact is Croatia did not get the win against the Swiss (who were a man down in the second half of that game) compromised chances of advancing further. The missed win against Switzerland and the directive he gave in the England game will leave a black mark on his tenure as coach of the national team (and he’s already paying the price in the Croatian newspapers). One good thing: Baric is moving on. He did not want to coach the team after Euro 2004 (now even less so) and his contract is not being renewed. Time for a new coach to take the team in a new direction and utilize the full potential of the players. As for me and soccer, it’s time to cheer for the home team of the tournament (go Portugal!) and a thanks to all those Scots (and others) who were cheering Croatia on (sorry guys, England is still in it :-)).