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Colourful Croats toast their historic victory

Posted July 13th, 2018, 10:38 AM IST

Colourful Croats toast their historic victory

Moscow: Words can hardly describe the joy of Croatian fans after their country reached a historic World Cup final here on Wednesday after beating England, giants in football, history and economy. Clad in their unique national colours of white and red squares, they toasted Croatia’s Cinderella story with gay abandon.

Zoran Lukovic, a middle-aged Croatian, said his joy knew no bounds. “It’s fantastic be a Croatian today. We aren’t finished yet; we might win the trophy as well on Sunday. Anything can happen in football, which is primarily a simple sport,” he added.

The World Cup final is only for the big boys of the sport as Argentina, Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands have monopolised it over the years. Croatia’s four million population is comparable to Pune’s. “We are the smallest nation to reach the final after Uruguay, who achieved the feat almost 70 years ago. We have bucked the trend to give hope to smaller nations in the World Cup,” said Mattias Zvonimir Matasic, a Croat living in Sweden.

Matasic said he was glad that Croatia dashed England’s title hopes. “The English are arrogant as they were singing that the cup was coming home even before the semifinals,” he added.

No one typifies Croatia’s fighting spirit more than Domagoj Vida, their combative defender. Vida’s younger brother, Hrvoje, said the player is aggressive only on the ground. “I’m doubly proud because my brother is part of this history-making group. I was so confident of Croatia’s presence in the final that I had bought tickets for the July 15 match well in advance,” he added.

Andrea, Hrvoje’s girlfriend, said there aren’t enough words to capture her joy. “It’s amazing for a small nation like ours to reach the World Cup final,” she added.

If Croatia took baby steps by reaching the semifinals of the 1998 World Cup, it came of age by advancing to the next round 20 years later. When asked to put Croatia’s win over England in context, Stipe Mrkonjic said: “It’s like winning the war against the Serbians for our independence.” He added Croatia has no problem with Serbia now and he counts many Serbians among his friends.

“We can’t be prouder of our nation. Unlike Uruguay, who do well only in football, we are good at a variety of sports such as tennis, handball and water polo,” Matej Parlov said.