Croatia are elated after their win against England
Croatia, a country of about 4 million people, came to a standstill as fans watched the game on screens in squares and cafes last night. In the capital Zagreb, more than 10,000 people gathered in the central square to watch the match despite rain, and watch as their nation booked their spot in the July 15 final at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium by beating England.
Croatia is the smallest nation to appear in the last stage of the tournament since 1950. Croatia, with a population of 4.1 million, around half the size of London, defeated England 2-1 after extra time.
“Mentally strong team,” midfielder Ivan Rakitic said. “It’s just unbelievable to get back in the game in this way.”
When the final whistle blew and they knew they were going to their first World Cup final, the Croatians ran to their jumping and cheering fans in their iconic red-and-white checkered jerseys. Croatia joined an exclusive club of 13 nations that advanced to a World Cup final, doing it in a tournament where powers Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Spain made early exits.
Croatia, coming off 360 intense minutes at soccer’s highest level, faces its biggest sporting moment since becoming an independent nation in 1991.
“We started slowly, but we’ve shown our character, just as we did in the previous two knockout rounds when we were one-goal down,” Perisic said.
“They’ve had an incredible route to the final. They’ve shown remarkable character,” said England coach Gareth Southgate, who for now will be remembered more for a fashionable waistcoat than ending a half-century of hurt.
Over the years, other relatively small nations to have punched above their weight by reaching the final include Sweden, Hungary and the Netherlands – all of whom fell at the final hurdle.
Croatia will be hoping to avoid that fate when they take on France in Moscow on Sunday.