Mind what you say about your opponent when you are going into any battle. That was the message Croatia’s players told England after beating the Three Lions in the second semifinal of the on-going World Cup in Moscow, Russia.
Before the game, which attracted over 60,000 fans to the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, the English media and the people were all about how football was returning to England, the home of its birth. They did not give any other team chance of winning the trophy, which they last won in 1966.
There were stories of how English expatriate workers took the game to Croatia more than 100 years, organised the first matches in the then Yugoslavia enclave and taught the people how to play it. The summation was that the masters were about to take back their game.
The English media also analysed the teams’ route to the semifinal and came up with the conclusion that the Croats, who are way older than the young Three Lions would tire out easily owing to the two 120-minute games and penalty shoot outs they had before the semifinal.The Croatian players soaked all that in and decided to teach the English their own lessons on the pitch.
Captain Luka Modric aptly described Croatia’s feeling going into the game.“English journalists, pundits from television underestimated Croatia tonight and that was a huge mistake. All these words from them we take, we were reading and we were saying ‘ok, today we will see who will be tired,” he said.His compatriot, Sime Vrsaljko, added: “The all-round perception was that this is a new-look England team, who have changed their ways of punting long balls upfield. But when we pressed them, it turned out that they haven’t.”
Vedran Corluka was straight to his point when jibbed at England, telling them to wait another four years for another try. He said, “It’s not coming home.”In reaching the final, Croatia already have surpassed the country’s legendary generation from two decades ago, which reached a World Cup semifinal against the team they will face this Sunday.Croatia boss, Zlatko Dalic now wants to write his team in the country’s lore.
Speaking on Sunday’s final at the post match conference on Wednesday, Dalic insisted that his team ‘are ready’ for the game, which would give them the chance to avenge their semi-final loss to Les Blues in 1998.Dalic acknowledged that strength in dept in France, saying, “I have a huge respect for France, but he is confident that his team can triumph.
“There is no weakness in a team which is in the final. They are a top-drawer team with fantastic players,” he said, adding, “But we are going to discuss France tomorrow. We’re taking it step by step. We’ve entered the final today. We’re going to celebrate, to rest and then we will prepare for France.
“We’re facing another daunting task but it’s going to be a fantastic match. We are ready for it. I am sure everybody will enjoy watching that match. I have huge respect for France.”France defeated Croatia in the semi-final of the 1998 edition of the competition, which they hosted and won. Croatia went on to win the third place by beating Holland in the play-off.