Euro 2012: Slaven Bilic surprised by Croatia's early elimination

Departing Croatia boss Slaven Bilic admitted he was surprised by his team's group-stage exit from Euro 2012.

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"I was sure we would go through because we are a good team

Slaven Bilic Croatia coach

Bilic, who has agreed to take over at Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow after the tournament, saw his reign cut short by a 1-0 defeat against Spain.

"I didn't expect this would be my last match," former Everton and West Ham player Bilic said afterwards.

"I was sure we would go through because we are a good team. My players are just phenomenal."

Croatia could have qualified from Group C with a victory or scoring draw against reigning world and European champions Spain in Gdansk.

A comfortable 3-1 success against Republic of Ireland in their opening match, and the subsequent 1-1 draw against Italy, put a second successive European Championship quarter-final appearance in their sights.

Despite a dogged display against Spain, where midfielder Ivan Rakitic spurned arguably the best chance of the match to put them ahead, the Croatians crashed out after Spanish substitute Jesus Navas's late winner.

Consistent Croatia

Croatia have scored four goals in the group stage in all four of their appearances at the Euros (1996, 2004, 2008, 2012).

"This was a really difficult group and we are proud of what we did," added Bilic.

"We can go back home with our heads held high. To play against Spain is really tough. They are such a tactical team.

"The game plan was to thwart Spain in the first half and have a go at them in the second. It worked and we did everything right except score.

"We came here to go all the way and we failed because we lacked that tiny bit of luck that makes all the difference."