The HNS didn't look far for Kovač's replacement, with HNL journeyman coach Ante Čačić brought in, a man with a long but unimpressive CV.
After the debacle in Oslo, the team regrouped under the new coach and saw out the campaign with six points from the last two games. It was enough for second place and direct qualification under the new, expanded Euro format.
Between the end of qualifying and the start of the Euros, Croatia was undefeated in five friendlies. Most impressive performance among those was a 3-1 away win in Russia, however, a 1-1 against Hungary in Budapest was probably most significant in this period. Fallout from that game ended up with Lovren eventually being left out of the final squad for the tournament.
Croatia opened the tourney with a 1-0 win over Turkey and followed it up with a 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic. With Croatia leading in the second half and playing some of the best football of the tournament, disaffected fans launched another protest, the disruption and some non-action by the coach leading the Czechs to an equaliser in the dying minutes.
So it was on the back of more turmoil that Croatia prepared to face Spain in the final group game. Unlike four years prior, it wasn't do or die, Croatia sat in second place almost certain to go through with four points.
The Spanish made no change to their team that routed Turkey in the previous game while Čačić decided to rest several players. Call it smart or raising the white flag, but Vrsaljko came in at LB for Strinić, Jedvaj replaced Vida at CB, Rog came in for Modrić (who had come off against the Czechs with a groin niggle), Pjaca took Brozović's role on the flank and Kalinić led the attack in place of Mandžukić.
The Croatian defence looked disjointed from the beginning and Morata finished off a good Spanish sequence to give them the lead after seven minutes. They continued to dominate but Croatia started getting back into the game late in the second half. Rakitić was unlucky not to score with a deft chip over De Gea and then on the stroke of HT Kalinić scored with a cheeky flick off a great Perišić delivery from the left.
The second half was more even but when Spain was given a dubious penalty with 15-20 minutes to go things looked bleak. As he would do again two years later in even more dramatic circumstances, Subašić was our penalty hero, saving Ramos' effort. Croatia would be on the back foot but with three minutes to go Kalinić and Perišić would link up again, this time on a quick counter with Perja providing a powerful finish.
Croatia would hold on and grab top spot in the group. Unfortunately, we ran into the wily Portuguese in the next round and our tournament was over.