In an exclusive interview with Goal.com, Slaven Bilic reflects on a night that could have been for his young Croatia side following its defeat at the hands of Spain.
Slaven Bilic was left crestfallen as Croatia bowed out of Euro 2012, but was quick praise his players for their commendable efforts.
"The European Championship is the cruelest of sports events," Bilic told Goal.com. "I am just so sad that we are out of the competition. We came here to compete with the big teams, and we were in a good way to do that."
While expressing his disappointment at the defeat, the former West Ham United defender declared that his players had suffered an unjust fate.
"Yeah, we are out. That's it, but I don't think that is what we deserved. I think if you look at our performances and our attitude, we deserved to go through, and I also feel very proud of my players," Bilic said. "I feel completely empty. I am not even thinking about how I feel, given that this was my last game in charge of my country.
"We came that close to winning today with that chance we had [Rakitic's second-half header]. When you play against the world champions you don't create 10 chances, maybe you just have three moments, and you have to make sure that you score your goals then."
Bilic refused to draw comparisons with the way in which Russia suffered elimination from Group A, stating that his side had a far tougher group.
"Look, with the greatest respect to them, what we went through was very different to what happened to Russia," he argued. "Our opponents after our first game were Spain and Italy. They are among the top favorites. And if you were to look back at the games against them you can see that we gave them a good game."
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