England plays Croatia in the second semi-final at the World Cup 2018 and GBGC’s researcher Tomislav Podvezanac gives a view of the match from Zagreb.
It has been 20 years since the Vatreni (“the Fiery Ones”) were last in a World Cup semi-final and manager Zlatko Dalic is confident of his team’s chances. Sportske Novosti ran with a headline quoting Dalic which read “We can be number 1! Not even England, Belgium nor France are better than our team!”
Other newspapers were equally sure of success:
“AND NOW THE GREAT ENGLAND! NEXT STEP – YOU’RE GOING HOME!”
“England says “It’s coming home”, we say “You’re going home”. Yes, “next step – you’re going home”! Let it be so!”
But Dalic did acknowledge that tiredness could be a factor after two tough games. Speaking to Dnevnik Nove TV he said, “They [the players] are not in great condition after these two difficult matches, we only have three days to recover [before the semi-final]. However, we will not look for any excuses. There is a fight for the final ahead of us, we will have to find energy, strength and will. It will not be an easy game, but I believe in our players, they have the strength to give their last atom of effort.”
A poll run on the Gol website had 64% of voters thinking Croatia would reach the World Cup final, 9% voting for England, and 27% believing that Croatia would not just reach the final but win the World Cup too.
And the majority of Croats are no less passionate in their support of their team than the English. A friend was hiking in the mountains around Zagreb on Saturday when Croatia beat Russia. She said the roars from watching fans were so loud she thought something was falling down the mountain. It was only after she looked at her phone that she realised Croatia had scored! The mountains are some 20 km from the city centre.
Beer and crisps are also in short supply, if my local shop is anything to go by, which had sold out of both essentials the other day.
Local bookmakers price Croatia at 3.20 to win the semi-final against England (2.60), with the draw in 90 minutes also 3.20.