Hosts Russia disappointed but exit World Cup stage with pride

Hugh Fox
July 11, 2018

Zlatko Dalic's side beat hosts Russian Federation 4-3 on penalties in their last-eight match in Sochi to set up an encounter with Gareth Southgate's Three Lions.

"We expect a very hard, tight and demanding match against England, like every match at the World Cup", the 32-year-old told reporters.

The defender is not ready for his World Cup dream to be over as he targets a first England final since 1966.

Putin was at Russia's opening game against Saudi Arabia but skipped the following four - despite the national side, the tournament's lowest-ranking, defying expectations and reaching the quarter-finals.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia had never managed to go past the group stage.

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"And now I want to say to English fans: "Guys, get it together, come to Russian Federation and support your national team because they have gotten into the semi-final", she said. We have two matches to play and we are very motivated.

"We saw how good they are from dead balls so will have to focus more on defending set-pieces because we conceded from a set-piece today, so have to improve that element of our game".

Croatia will now head to Moscow where they take on England in the second semifinal to be played on Wednesday, July 11.

He's ready to face the music now and says "it's nice to hear people enjoying it again".

In 1998, Croatia, which had emerged from a bitter independence war only three years earlier, made its debut at a World Cup finals.

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Saturday's game in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi finished 2-2 after extra-time but Croatia, led by captain Luka Modric, held their nerve to win the shootout 4-3, with Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic scoring the decisive spot-kick.

Up front, Mario Mandzukic was leaden and static and a strike rate of one goal apiece in five games for him, Inter Milan's Ivan Perisic and Eintracht Frankfurt's Ante Rebic is disappointing.

In the build-up to the quarter-final, Southgate had spoken about the chance to write history.

"It'd be fantastic if the Sbornaya organised a tour of Russian cities and met the fans all over the country", said Anton Voronin from Krasnodar, who was at the historic match against Spain at the Luzhniki Stadium in the Round of 16.

"We have to be united, go forward and apply pressure".

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The praise heaped on the Russian authorities by fans and media alike has been music to the ears of both Federation Internationale de Football Association boss Gianni Infantino and Russian president Vladimir Putin, with most of the negative stereotypes about the country pushed aside amid a carnival atmosphere inside and outside stadiums.

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