Zagreb (AFP) – Tears and cries of joy, hugs and chants, firecrackers and flares — Croatia was on fire late Wednesday after their victory against England set up a first ever appearance in a World Cup final.
“Croatia in World Cup finals! It is so beautiful! Miracle of all miracles in Russia!” the state-run HRT television commentator Drago Cosic shouted ecstatically.
Croatia beat England 2-1 in extra-time thanks to a Mario Mandzukic goal in the second period of extra-time to book a date with France in Moscow on Sunday.
Thousands of fans gathered at the country’s largest fan zone in Zagreb’s main square, braving intermittent rain to cheer on the “Fiery Ones” (Vatreni) on a giant screen.
“We don’t intend to stop now,” coach Zlatko Dalic assured HRT.
Popular song “Play my Croatia” was played on radio stations and waiters, shop workers, TV presenters and nurses donned red-and-white jerseys.
Some stores closed early to enable employees to watch the match, with various concerts, plays and cinema screenings cancelled.
The side led by Luka Modric have been feted as national heroes for their run to the last four in Russia.
They matched the feat of their predecessors in 1998 who reached the semi-finals in the country’s first World Cup as an independent nation.
But on Wednesday night Dalic’s players did even better, securing a historic first World Cup final for the country of about four million people.