(Photo: Sanjin Strukic/PIXSELL) (Photo: Sanjin Strukic/PIXSELL)

Coming in from a narrow win over Azerbaijan on Thursday, Croatia looked like it could coast to victory after Ante Rebić put Croatia in the lead in the 13th minute. However, the team struggled with defense and Hungary equalized with a tight shot from Adam Szalai in the 34th minute. Mate Pataki snatched the win for Hungary in the 76th minute.

Coach Zlatko Dalić congratulated the Hungarians, conceding they were the better team on the night.

“We didn’t make any progress after the goal. We let them get back into the game with their aggressive tactics and the help of their supporters. We didn’t pay like a team, didn’t create a single opportunity. We tried with possessing the ball in the second half, but it was not enough,” Dalić told reporters.

Asked if the team had simply underestimated their group opponents, Dalić said none of the teams were easy to beat.

“A year and a half ago the Hungarians advanced from their group at the European Championships, as did Slovania and Wales. If we allow ourselves to think the wins will be easy, we’ll never get past the group stage,” Dalić said.

Croatia captain Luka Modrić said there was no need for drama, but the team had to stick together after this defeat.

“We’ve demonstrated in many qualifications over the years that we can always find strength and skill to be the Croatia people expect us to be. Defeat is tough, but we are going to have to improve, otherwise qualifying will be difficult,” Modrić said.

Croatia, Hungary, Wales and Slovakia are level with three points each in group E. Azerbaijan is at the bottom of the table with no points.