World Cup: Heartbroken but proud Croatia fans celebrate their 'heroes'

World Cup: Heartbroken but proud Croatia fans celebrate their 'heroes'
PHOTO: AFP

Heartbroken but proud Croatian fans in Zagreb cheered and wept as their "heroes" went down 4-2 to France in the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday.

On the final whistle applause from tens of thousands of Croatian fans rang out through the capital's main Jelacic square as many lit flares and set off firecrackers.

Fans cheered the players on a big TV screen in the packed square, as car horns began blaring on the streets of the Croatian capital.

"Our boys gave everything on the pitch, till the last drop of energy," Kristijan Strnic, 22, dressed in a red-and-white chequerboard jersey, told AFP.

"It was a spectacular match, the nation is grateful, we are so proud of our golden team, they fought like lions," he said.

As a party began in the square to celebrate the team's performance a distraught supporter Aurora Krnic said with tears in her eyes that the second place was "still fantastic".

"I am sorry for all the young people, the team made them so happy, but they gave their all, they are heroes to us," she said.

"Croatia can be proud, we should applaud our boys" said match commentator Drago Cosic on Croatian state TV HRT.

"A big football nation managed to outsmart Croatia with pragmatic albeit dominant football, France remains a puzzle to solve for Croatia".

France beat Croatia 4-2 to win second World Cup

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    Hundreds of thousands of ecstatic French fans celebrated the return of their World Cup winning football team on Monday (July 16)

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    jumping and chanting "We Are The Champions" as their bus paraded down the Champs Elysees before a special presidential reception.

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    "Les Bleus", a dynamic, young team that won an open, fast-paced final 4-2 with Croatia in Moscow, appeared at the Elysee palace,

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    where they burst into a spontaneous rendition of the "La Marseillaise" national anthem with President Emmanuel Macron and his wife.

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    More than 300,000 people filled the Champs Elysees, the area around the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde on Sunday night, partying into the early hours, singing the Marseillaise, setting off firecrackers and blaring horns until the sun rose.

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    The victory has helped foster a sense of national unity, with commentators playing up the fact the squad, the second-youngest in the competition, includes many with central and north African heritage, even if all but two were born in France.

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    France won the World Cup for the second time by ending battling Croatia's dream of a first title with a 4-2 victory on Sunday in one of the most entertaining and action-packed finals for decades.

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    France led 2-1 at halftime after a Mario Mandzukic own goal

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    and an Antoine Griezmann VAR penalty

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    with Ivan Perisic briefly bringing first-time finalists Croatia level.

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    France, however, withstood a spirited Croatia assault to lift the trophy for the second time, following their success on home soil 20 years ago,

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    and ensure there was no repeat of two years ago when they were beaten in the European Championship final by Portugal in Paris.

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    The victory means that Didier Deschamps, captain of the 1998 side, becomes the third man to win the World Cup as player and coach after Brazil's Mario Zagallo and Germany's Franz Beckenbauer.

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    It was the highest-scoring final since England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time in 1966 and the highest in normal time since Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 60 years ago.

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    Croatia captain Luka Modric said being awarded the Golden Ball for the World Cup's best player was "bittersweet" after losing the final 4-2 to France on Sunday.

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    The smallest country to make a World Cup final in 68 years, with a population of just over four million, finally wilted after the break as Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe added to France's lead before Mandzukic pulled a goal back.

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    "Obviously I liked the recognition and thanks to those who chose me, but clearly I would have preferred to have won the World Cup," said the Real Madrid midfielder.

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    US singer Will Smith and Kosovo's singer Era Istrefi perform during the closing ceremony

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"The fairytale of the 'Fiery Ones' is over!" proclaimed newspaper Jutarnji List on its website.

"Mbappe and Pogba, with the help of the Argentinian referee and VAR, left Croatia on the threshold of paradise".

"Croatia was just a step away from football immortality," said the Index.hr website.

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"These boys are world champions for us, they taught us about heart and unity," said Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic who watched the match with fans in a downtown fan zone.

"We lived through a fantastic and unforgettable period for the whole of Croatia during this month," he said of the Balkan nation with a population of just over four million people.

ALSO READ: Croatia's Modric says Golden Ball 'bittersweet' after World Cup defeat

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