With Russia out of the tournament, hosts' World Cup fever wanes


"It's a super exciting game with great players on both sides", France defender Benjamin Pavard said.

The Barcelona man's strike, rolled cooly in the bottom left corner of Igor Akinfeev's goal, set up a World Cup semi-final between Croatia and England, the two quarter-final victors on Saturday.

With Modric and Rakitic controlling the midfield, Croatia have had more possession than their opposition in four of five games at the World Cup.

France took full advantage of an Edinson Cavani-less Uruguay, before tournament favourites Brazil were put to the sword by Belgium's incisive counter-attacking in a thrilling game in Kazan.

HNS also said that Vukojevic and Vida apologised for their statements, saying they were not meant to be political messages but "unfortunately left room for such interpretations".

The Slavic country has been one of the better performers at this World Cup, even though it may not have come with much entertainment. "We played at club level as well", says striker Mario Mandzukic, who played with Modric at Dinamo Zagreb a decade ago before the latter joined Tottenham Hotspur.

"I've got the utmost respect for him - he's been banging goals in for Spurs for several seasons - but he's not alone, his team-mates play at top clubs, so it will be hard".

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The Russians as hosts did not need to qualify for the World Cup and their ranking of 70 in the world was the lowest among all teams in Russia, even lower than global football minnows Saudi Arabia.

"And physical preparation. If the player is not in good physical shape, he will not play well in a World Cup".

Tens of thousands of Russians gathered in Moscow on Sunday to cheer the national team, after its defeat to Croatia in a penalty shoot-out brought an unlikely World Cup run to an emotional end.

Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic has claimed that nobody should be surprised at his side reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup. "We're looking forward to the future", said Young. "I expected to see him today, but I hope to see him soon.". "But I think it is a football event".

Former Croatia coach Slaven Bilic believes a constant theme in their national sides is their ability to raise their game against big sides, hence their low-key performances against Denmark and Russian Federation in the knockout stages, beating both on penalties, should be disregarded.

According to Croatia's president, "football diplomacy is very beneficial for our nations to get closer".