Cherchesov: Russians now value their national team

Glen Norman
July 11, 2018

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic is confident his side can handle the atmosphere as they take on hosts Russian Federation for a place in the World Cup semi-finals.

Set pieces have been the main source of goals at the tournament in Russian Federation - 42 percent, no less - and England has been the master of that department on its run to Wedneday's semifinal match against Croatia.

Despite the pre-World Cup barbs and snipes regarding Russia's quality and the politically-charged commentary related to the hosts, they bowed out in style, having exceeded expectations and injected the tournament with a healthy dose of enthusiasm.

As Russia's World Cup dream ended with defeat to Croatia, some soccer fans noted the absence from the stadium of President Vladimir Putin, who attended only one match in Russia's best World Cup run since the Soviet collapse in 1991.

Despite the prospect of England reaching a first World Cup final since lifting the trophy on home soil in 1966, the squad looked relaxed during the open section of their morning session.

Defender Mario Fernandes, who had brought his side level through a header in the 115th minute, missed what proved to be the decisive spot-kick, with Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic making no mistake to send his team into the semi-finals.

Croatia has never advanced to the championship match.

After beginning his coaching career at the age of 28 with FC Vevey in Switzerland, Miroslav Blazevic managed several clubs, most notably Dinamo Zagreb, before taking the Croatia helm in 1994. Since then, the Croats have exited at the group stage in 2002, 2006 and 2014 and failed to qualify in 2010.

At the blast of the final whistle, Croatia president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic rushed into the dressing room to celebrate with the players.

"I left everything on the field and unfortunately we were unlucky", Russian Federation midfielder Roman Zobnin said. We have two matches to play and we are very motivated.

"I think we are just enjoying the journey, that's definitely helped us, everything we've done has been based on enjoyment", he added. "We have succeeded I believe, but it is time to take a step forward".

They will now take on England at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday for a place in the final. "I told him we were disappointed".

Ivan Rakitic converted the decisive spot-kick after Mario Fernandes, who had netted an equaliser for Russian Federation with five minutes of extra-time remaining, hit his effort from 12 yards wide. "Thank you for your support, I'm happy to see so many people here".

It's what Croatia has done - or hasn't - in the four World Cups since that debut which has created the shadow this team plays under.

I am playing in the quarter-finals.

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