Football Euphoria Spreading Across Croatia Ahead of World Cup Final

By 15 July 2018

ZAGREB, July 15, 2018 - Croatia and France will play a World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday afternoon, as the best two teams that have reached the final stage of the FIFA 34-day-long football tournament, and the whole of Croatia and its expat communities are in dreamland.

Croatia is aiming to win a first major international trophy at the final match at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, while their opponents are in the third final. France won the first World Cup title in Paris 20 years ago when the Croatian squad was the third.

Foreign media underline that, with a population of 4.1 million, Croatia is the second smallest country to have reached a World Cup final, after Uruguay, with an estimated population of about 1.7 million, won the competition in 1930.

At 20th place in Fifa's world rankings, the Croatian team coached by manager Zlatko Dalić are the lowest-ranked team to reach a World Cup final, and the 13th different nation to do so.

The journey the Croatians have passed to reach the final include the victories of all the three games in their Group D:

Group results:
Croatia- Nigeria 2-0
Croatia - Argentina 3-0
Croatia - Iceland 2-1

Knock-out stage
In the Round of 16, Croatia faced Denmark and beat them, and in the quarter-finals they defeated Russia to reach a semi-final match when they beat England.
Croatia - Denmark 1-1 and the victory was ensured in the penalties 3-2
Croatia - Russia 2-2 and the victory was ensured in the penalties 4-3
Croatia - England 2-1

Foreign media also underscore that Croatia, perceived as an underdog of this contest, are the first team to have reached the World Cup final despite trailing in all three of their knockout games.

The Croats have played extra time in their last three matches and could become the first team in World Cup history to play extra time in four matches at a single tournament.

Croatia have scored 12 goals and have had eight different goalscorers (excluding own goals).

Croatia has been gripped by soccer euphoria after its national team beat England in the World Cup semi-final in Moscow this past Wednesday. The historic success of the national squad is now the dominant topic of media reports and conversations among ordinary citizens.

With the tournament entering its last stage, Croatia's streets, cafes and public buildings are more and more decorated with national flags and symbols, and the national chequered jersey is now a must-have item not only for fans but also for state officials, waiters, shop assistants, bank clerks and employees in companies and state institutions.

Zagreb is preparing a magnificent welcome ceremony for the national soccer team on Monday, regardless of whether they finish first or second in the tournament. Hundreds of thousands of revellers are expected in Zagreb's main square on Monday afternoon to welcome their heroes.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Friday called on employers to award a day off, where it is possible, to their workers on Monday so that they can join in the welcome party for the soccer team. The homecoming party will be broadcast live on HRT public television.

The national team and its manager Dalić will be decorated by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Monday evening in her office. The president will officially represent Croatia at the World Cup final match with France in Moscow on Sunday.

The Croatian national team, which includes several members originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, including coach Zlatko Dalić who was born in Livno, enjoy great affection among fans in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Posters with encouraging messages appeared in the capital Sarajevo before the historic semi-final match between Croatia and England on 11 July, with one of them reading: "Together with Croatia to the Final!". The Croat-populated areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina are also organising fan zones during the matches with the Croatia team.

Regardless of recently strained political relations between Slovenia and Croatia over unresolved issues such as border demarcation, many of the Slovenians openly admit that their favourite team during the World Cup tournament in Russia are the Croats. The squad coached by manager Dalić enjoys high ratings among the Slovenians, as evidenced by the fact that Croatian chequered jerseys have been sold out in the Slovenian coastal area, local media outlets have reported.

Furthermore, cafes and restaurants near the border with Croatia are offering fan corners where locals, Slovenian and Croatian neighbours, are together watching matches with the Croatian soccer team at the tournament.