Ryan Giggs described Wales’ Euro 2020 qualifying defeat to Croatia as “one that got away” after his side failed to take late chances in Osijek.
Wales went down 2-1 in searing temperatures after the World Cup finalists had dominated the opening hour to lead through a James Lawrence own goal and an Ivan Perisic strike at the start of the second half.
But Wales rallied in the final half-hour and substitute David Brooks gave them hope 13 minutes from time with a deflected drive.
Brooks and Gareth Bale then had chances to equalise in the closing stages and snatch an unlikely point, but Croatia held on to leapfrog Wales in Group E.
“I’m obviously disappointed not to get something out of the game with the chances we had,” Giggs said.
“We had so many good chances and we didn’t manage to put them away. We didn’t really play well and gave away two poor goals.
“When you don’t play like you can do and still create chances against this top team, it’s disappointing.
“I said to the players, we’ve missed a chance, especially with the way we ended the game, we ended so strong.
“We looked the fitter side at the end. We looked like the ones pushing and it looked like Croatia were hanging on.
“When you end the game like that, you’ve got to be disappointed and it’s definitely one that got away.”
Brooks, who missed out on a starting spot after injury, made an impact in the final 25 minutes as players began to toil in the 30-degree heat.
The Bournemouth forward scored his first international goal and is in contention to start against Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday.
“He’s only trained two days and missed the last few games for Bournemouth,” said Giggs, explaining Brooks’ omission.
“He scored the goal and looked lively when he came on, but he couldn’t have started the game because he’s only done two days and you saw the conditions and we have other players fit.
“We have a game on Tuesday as well, so they’re the reasons really.
“It was difficult leaving him on the bench, but it was the right thing to do.
“But he is in the reckoning for Tuesday and I would imagine there will be changes.”
Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic felt the hot conditions actually worked against his side.
Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric dictated the tempo in the opening hour, but the game became an end-to-end exercise in the final 30 minutes.
“It was a very tough game,” Dalic said. “We started well as planned, but the heat and the conditions killed us.
“Every time a player went to sprint, they had to take a rest.
“Wales played well, but the only important thing for us was the win and the three points which we wanted.
“It is going to be difficult for us, but we know we are still the favourites in this group.
“We are aiming for first place and I think Wales and Slovakia are the best candidates for second.”