President Grabar-Kitarović to Represent Croatia at World Cup Final

By 14 July 2018

ZAGREB, July 14, 2018 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović will officially represent Croatia at the World Cup final match with France in Moscow on Sunday, the government said.

President said on Friday that she was very excited about the success of Croatian footballers at the World Cup in Russia and that she could hardly wait for Sunday's final match against France, which she was confident Croatia would win.

"We must use this optimism to launch positive processes in Croatia. Based on my talks with other officials in Brussels and with economic experts, I believe that if we use this situation well, it can lead to our economic progress," she said.

Asked about Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's announcement that a national football stadium would be built, she said that it was absolutely necessary and that she had been advocating it for some time herself. That is a national project on which we all need to unite, she said.

Croatia has been gripped by soccer euphoria after its national team beat England in the World Cup semi-final in Moscow on Wednesday to face France in the final match of the tournament, set for Sunday afternoon in the Russian capital.

The historic success of the national soccer 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 checkered 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.

Foreign media have noted that Croatia have become the 13th team to contest the final and the first new finalists since Spain in 2010. Before this, Croatia's best result was the bronze medal at the World Cup in France in 1998, and since then Croatia failed to get past the group stage.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told CNN that the national football team's making it to the World Cup finals to play France was a historic event for Croatian sports. The team have played very well throughout the tournament, he said, noting that its chief players currently played in some of the best European football clubs and leagues.

"Only 20 years has passed since our last semifinals in France and repeating it already now, you can imagine that going to the finals has brought a sort of delirious atmosphere in Croatia," Plenković told CNN which carried his statement as part of a report on the current football euphoria in Croatia.

Zagreb is organising a 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. Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Friday that security assessments were being made and other plans were being carried out in cooperation with the city authorities to make sure that the welcome ceremony was to the highest standard.

Thousands of Croats would like to attend Sunday's final match and the 1,500 lucky of them have managed to obtain tickets and will fly aboard seven charter planes from Zagreb to Moscow on Sunday morning.

The cost of the same-day return charter flight is about 12,000 kuna (1,625 euros), and does not include a ticket price. Prices of the final match tickets are about 3,000 kuna and rise up to 10,000 for VIP tickets on the black market.

Prime Minister 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 national team and its manager Dalić will be decorated by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Monday evening in her office.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković has given an interview to "France 24" TV station in which he expresses hope that Croatia's national team will win the final match of the World Cup in Moscow where they will play against France. "We have a historic chance to become world champions," Plenković said, describing the French team as brilliant.

He said that "this generation of Croatian footballers has a mentality of champions" and also talent, and praised the team manager Zlatko Dalić for excellent strategy and underscored the enthusiasm in the whole of Croatia and its expat communities. During his interview, Plenković recalled the five years he spent in France as a Croatian diplomat.

Asked about his prediction for the score in Sunday's final math, Plenković says that he has to admit "with all the respect for the French team and with all my affection for France," that one goal could and will make a difference and that it will be in favour of Croatia.