England Under-21 boss Aidy Boothroyd says the Croatian players’ wild celebrations at the end of England’s win on Wednesday prompted Curtis Jones’ outburst that saw him shown a red card.
The Liverpool star was involved in an altercation with members of Croatia’s U21 team and their staff in the wake of England’s exit from the Euro 2021 tournament.
Domogoj Bradaric’s injury-time goal denied England a place in the quarter-finals.
Despite the Three Lions winning the game 2-1, with goals from Jones and Crystal Palace forward Eberechi Eze, they were dumped out of the competition as they needed to win by two clear goals to progress.
Jones had to be held back as he clashed with opposition players amid celebrations on the pitch and was shown a second yellow card for his part in the rough and tumble.
Boothroyd attempted to explain why Jones was so angry after the game.
“All their staff were on the pitch and celebrating in between some of our players and it just got a bit fraught”, Boothroyd told Sky Sports.
“Emotions got high. I’ve got to get to the bottom of the card [for Curtis Jones]. I have been unable to speak to the referee yet. I’ll find out what when on there.
“It is one of those highly emotive situations where sometimes things can happen, thankfully both sets of staff sorted it out.”
Portugal topped Group D after winning 3-0 and it is Croatia, rather than England, who will meet Spain in a quarter-final in May.
Boothroyd added: “It was a do-or-die effort and brilliant in many aspects, but we’re bitterly disappointed and football is a cruel game.
“The young players will benefit in the long term but at the moment that sounds like a ridiculous thing to say.
“We didn’t get knocked out today, we got knocked out against Switzerland (a 1-0 opening defeat). The way we played in the first two games is not a true reflection of who we are.
“I thought we played really well (against Croatia), I was proud of the performance and I’m as disappointed as the players are. They will learn from this. When you lose in the last minute of a game in a tournament it hurts and it’s a lesson.
“We should look a bit closer at ourselves and examine where we can get better.”