Del Bosque had warned Spain's players of Perisic threat
BORDEAUX, FRANCE (Reuters) - Spain coach Vicente del Bosque defended his players after a 2-1 defeat by Croatia on Tuesday that means they must face old rivals Italy in the round of 16.
He pointed out, however, that they had been warned about the sort of break with which Ivan Perisic scored the winning goal.
"We had spoken about Perisic and how dangerous he was in counter-attacks," Del Bosque told Spanish television network Telecino when asked about the Inter Milan striker.
"We are disappointed. The path now might be seen as more difficult but you never know where the danger is."
Although it was a first defeat in 15 matches at the finals for Spain since they lost to Portugal in 2004, they did recover from an opening defeat by Switzerland to win the 2010 World Cup.
"We've won the right still to be in the competition," said Del Bosque.
"I'm not going to defend the performance excessively but we haven't played badly and I don't really have any complaints about the players."
Asked about the choice of penalty taker for the spot kick captain Sergio Ramos missed, Del Bosque said there was a group of players and "the one who has the most confidence takes it".
Ramos acknowledged that his poor kick, saved by goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, had given Spain a harder path to follow if they are to win a record third straight European title.
"We dominated early and had chances to extend our lead," he said. "I had a chance to put my team ahead and unfortunately I couldn't convert. It wasn't to be. They had a counter-attack which ended up in a goal.
"Now we will face a more difficult rival than if we had finished first in our group. We need to turn the page. We have to learn from this game.
"I've always said that you have to beat the best if we want to be champions."
Neither the captain nor coach offered tiredness as an excuse after Del Bosque chose the same eleven who had played most of the previous two games.
"We had the game more or less controlled but we made some errors and they punished us," he said.
"Unfortunately, we can't choose our own path now, which we could have done had we been first."
If Spain get past Italy then world champions Germany are potential quarter-final opponents while France and England also lie in wait as possible semi-final opposition.
(Reporting by Steve Tongue; editing by Ken Ferris)