Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Sport | By Cameron Gross

Croatia explodes with joy as team reaches World Cup semis

Croatia explodes with joy as team reaches World Cup semis

Popular song "Play my Croatia" is being played on radio stations and waiters, shop workers, TV presenters and nurses are dressed in red-and-white jerseys.

Even their own fans did not expect them to achieve anything. Many of those were expected given the US team's absence, but the numbers have still seen sharp declines from 2014 (which both had the USA and was in a more favorable time zone) in particular; for example, the first three days of the Round of 16 averaged 2.3 million viewers, down 20 percent from ESPN/ABC coverage in 2014 (albeit up 16 percent versus ESPN/ABC coverage in 2010). They came to Russian Federation as an underrated group of players, a young team with none of the hyped-up circus that has surrounded their teams of the past.

President Grabar-Kitarovic, Croatia's first female President, was captured on camera celebrating and cheering in front of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as her team took on the hosts at the quarter finals.

The game in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi was locked at 2-2 after extra-time but Croatia held their nerve to win the shootout 4-3, with Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic scoring the decisive penalty.

He hopes England will be more suited to their style of play, but added that recovering from two extended games will be hard. The big guys were sent home and the working teams stayed. Meticulous preparation - including a trip to the United States to take in an National Basketball Association game - the selection of specific players with strong dead-ball delivery, and the defensive nature of high-pressure tournament soccer has led to a point where set pieces could yet lead England to a second World Cup title.

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Going past Croatia and beyond, though, would be the greatest reward.

But Dalic said: "I don't think England had easy opponents, they made it look easy".

"They play very direct football, dangerous, fast, and they are really good at setpieces, and dangerous at corner kicks".

Cherchesov and his men got fans to believe in them after they outclassed Egypt 3-1 in the second Group A game. By the knockout stage, supporters were chanting "Roo-see-ah!" at stadiums where the team wasn't even playing. They can hold their heads high and be proud of a run no one had expected of them.

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