Croatia crashed out of the Euro with a 1-0 overtime loss to Portugal Saturday, shocking the nations out of high expectations and triggering an outrage avalanche against coach Ante Cacic.
Analysts and fans alike questioned Cacic's decision to delay substitutions. "He should have substituted earlier," retired Croatian player Josko Jelicic told Vecernji List.
The portal Index.hr pointed out that readers singled Cacic out as the most responsible for another early exit.
"Cacic is the sole culprit," "Cacic brings fresh players in two minutes from time - send him home," and "referee blows final whistle, Cacic begins mulling substitutions" are some of the reactions the portal highlighted.
Cacic's expertise has been questioned by the public and even players ever since he was appointed, despite having no major experience, in 2015. Several players refused to play for him.
After the loss, Cacic said that Croatia were better, but unfortunate.
"We were unlucky, finishing on top of the group, but running into the hardest rival. Sometimes the better team doesn't win, as was the case in this game. If we had been the dark horses to win the Euro so far, now it’s Portugal," 24Sata quoted him as saying.
Croatians had high expectations from their star-studded team, led by Real Madrid's Luka Modric.
But Modric's team remains in the shadow of the first generation that Croatia fielded after claiming independence from former Yugoslavia 25 years ago Saturday. That team won third place at the 1998 World Cup in France.