Croatia's president dances with team after victory against Russian Federation

Croatian president flies economy class to Russia to cheer World Cup team

"The World Cup was a strong motivation of me".

When Croatia stormed through the group stage with nine points from three games, they did in indeed look like serious contenders. It turns out they need not have bothered; the team silenced the critics on its own.

Ignashevich was one of the successful penalty takers in the 4-3 shootout defeat to Croatia and was also on target from the spot when they beat Spain on penalties.

Their unexpected surge at the tournament has surprised the world.

The magnitude of reaching the semi-finals for the first time since the country's World Cup debut at France 1998 proved evident from the celebrations that both the striker and his team-mates witnessed back home. They were better. They are young and alive.

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Croatia will have enough energy to face England in the World Cup semi-final despite back-to-back games going to extra time and penalties, boss Zlatko Dalic says.

President Vladimir Putin is said to be "proud" of the team's efforts.

Russian Federation had the ideal tone firing five goals past the Saudis in the World Cup opening match. Of course, they are rewards for effort and everyday performances.

This followed it up with a 3-1 win over Mohamed Salah's Egypt proving that the opening win was not just some flash in the pane. The 2008 Uefa Champions League final was an all-English affair between Manchester United and Chelsea, which Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils won 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes. That's not how Croatia play. However, they were shut out in the later part of the game and conceded twice.

Belgium needed an incredible second-half comeback from 2-0 down in the round of 16 to knock off Japan, and they held on to send Neymar and Brazil home in the quarterfinals.

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Defender Sergei Ignashevich has announced his retirement from football after Russian Federation lost to Croatia in the World Cup quarterfinals. The criticism of him has been ridiculous, yes, he misses chances but who doesn't miss chances? "Now, we have to get together and continue this way, for our great fans".

Cherchesov paid tribute to the home fans for their support.

"And I think this is the best he's been playing throughout his whole career".

"From the first second I put together this team, I knew where it was heading", the coach added.

The playmaker, who won a third successive Champions League title with Real Madrid before coming to Russian Federation, brushed off suggestions that his performance might put him in the running for the Ballon d'Or prize as the world's best player.

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