Pride and tears for Croatians after team loses World Cup final to France
After watching their football team lose 4-2 to France in the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday, some Croatians wept with sadness while others felt pride that their tiny nation had gone so far in the tournament
Moscow/Zagreb: After watching their football team lose 4-2 to France in the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday, some Croatians wept with sadness while others felt pride that their tiny nation had gone so far in the tournament.
When the final whistle blew fans who had gathered in Ban Jelacic square in the capital Zagreb to watch the match on a big screen hugged each other in commiseration.
One young woman used a red-and-white Croatian flag to wipe tears from her eyes as a female friend, also crying, put her arm around her.
Others continued waving Croatian flags and scarves through the disappointment after watching their country play in the World Cup final for the first time.
“The French proved better in decisive moments although we practically let them score the first two goals too easily. Still, it is a great achievement to play in the final and we can only be proud of what our soccer team has done in the World Cup,” 59-year old Darko Ilakovac said.
At Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium where the match took place, Croatian supporter Robert Zeljko, 31, was in tears during the ceremony at the end of the match to hand out the winners’ medals.
“We are very sad now,” said Zeljko, who was dressed in a Croatian soccer shirt. “We will be sad today and tomorrow but after some weeks we will be proud of this team.”
Croatia, with a population of only 4.2 million people, were not among the favourites at the start of the tournament. Their progress to the final gripped the imagination of the Balkan nation and members of the Croatian diaspora living in countries from Germany to Australia.
“For a nation of four million people it’s a miracle to come to the World Cup final,” said Aleksander Ceferin, the head of European soccer’s governing body Uefa.
Croatian media on Monday hailed the team as heroes.
“Thank you, heroes! - You gave us everything!” read the Sportske Novosti frontpage.
It showed a photo of captain Luka Modric who was awarded the Golden Ball for the best player at the tournament, holding a trophy, although with a sad face after the defeat.
“Brave hearts—You made us proud,” said Jutarnji List daily.
In an outburst of national pride, tens of thousands of people wearing national red-and-white colours and waving Croatian flags poured into the streets of the capital Zagreb on Monday to greet the players, many coming to the city from other parts of the country.
The crowd crammed the city’s central square or lined up along the route where the players passed in an open bus, greeting the fans along the way and signing autographs from the bus.
“Champions! Champions!” roared the crowds as the players came out of the plane to a red carpet placed on the tarmac at the Zagreb airport.
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