Slaven Bilic reveals the tactical adjustments that enabled Croatia to be “dominant” in the second half against Italy and claimed the referee “favoured” the Azzurri.
“It is not easy when you are up against a big team, but we were waiting for our chance,” he said of the 1-1 draw.
“They were better than us in the first half – we were lacking patience and trying to shoot from outside the box.
“I told them at half-time that we needed to be more aggressive and have more possession. We changed things tactically so Mario Mandzukic was playing deeper and we moved Luka Modric out to the wing and we were dominant after that.
“I don't want to talk about our next match against Spain. We have loads of time to analyse them, but after two matches this is a really good situation; four points and I am really optimistic about the next game and the whole tournament.
“Six points would have been even better, but this is pretty good. The whole nation was not expecting this and we still have a chance to go through this very difficult group, so it is a phenomenal success.”
Bilic admits it was not simply a tactical issue that saw Croatia take control after the break.
“Italy are not as fit as us and they knew it. Our problem is different, because we are not as strong mentally as teams like Germany or Italy. We need to improve on this, and we are working hard to do that. You can see the result and we can prepare for Spain now.
“I work a lot with my players. I meet a lot of Coaches and visit a lot of training camps. Yes, I am young but I want to transmit positive energy to my players. It is not easy on the touchline.
“We are very emotional people as a nation and it wouldn't help if I screamed and shouted at my players at half-time – we just had to be calm and make a few corrections, and that is what we did.”
However, the tactician also criticised the performance of referee Howard Webb.
“Many Coaches don’t want to talk about referees, but I do not agree with this approach. I might not be objective, but there was a clear penalty on Nikica Jelavic, while the free kick for Andrea Pirlo’s goal didn’t exist.
“I am not trying to stir up controversy, but the referee favoured Italy.”