Croatia vs Spain reaction: Vicente del Bosque's unchanged line-up comes unstuck in Group D finale

There is no manual on management that can be guaranteed to produce results. Roy Hodgson rests players against Slovakia on Monday, fails to win, is criticised. The following night Vicente del Bosque does not rest players, loses, and is criticised while his Croatian counterpart is praised for making changes.

Asked whether his players were tired, after starting three matches with the same XI, Del Bosque said he believed they were ‘in good condition’ but admitted he could not be certain. “They may be tired, but I think we were in good condition,” he said. “We don’t have a scientific way of saying: ‘These can play, these can’t play, but we have confidence in the physical condition of our players.”

However, he made the point that Croatia, who won 2-1 in Bordeaux with an 87th minute breakaway goal, “had five changes and refreshed the team”.

Croatian coach, Ante Cacic said, “I thought I could change five players so I could play with fresh players in the next round.”

Another choice which backfired for Spain was Sergio Ramos’ decision to take a penalty awarded at 1-1. Spain, said Del Bosque, do not have a designated penalty taker, instead, “there is a group of players who are penalty takers, the one who is confident takes it.”

Spain’s first finals defeat in this competition since 2004 means they now face Italy, a repeat of the 2012 final, won 4-0 by Spain.

“It is not the path we wanted to take but that is football,” said Del Bosque. “We are still in the competition and we will try and recuperate as best as possible from this set back. We have not played badly, but that is the result. The dressing room is very quiet, but I don’t have any complaints against the players.”

Croatia, he added were potential winners. “They are one of the teams who are playing the best.” Cacic, agreed: “This was an important result, we won against a really strong team, a champion, and played well. Winning against Spain we can be confident and tell everyone how strong we are. We showed even before the tournament if we will play our game we can be successful.

Man of the match Ivan Perisic said: “This was special evening for us, but we have to stay focussed as if we lose the next match it means we have not done anything important.”

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