World Cup 2018: England face Croatia for a place in the final

The 1998 winners France await winners of the second semi-final taking place in Moscow.

    World Cup 2018: England face Croatia for a place in the final
    Applications by Britons for World Cup fan identity documents increased by over 29 percent since July 7 [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

    England and Croatia, two nations waiting years to put right the bitter memories of World Cup semi-final defeats, face each other in Moscow with the chance to finally go one step further.

    England's last appearance at this stage was in 1990 when they lost in a penalty shootout to West Germany in Turin.

    Eight years later, in their first World Cup as an independent nation, Croatia lost to hosts and eventual winners France.

    Neither team came to Russia being heralded as favourites but they have produced performances throughout the competition which have shown they were underestimated by the pundits.

    Croatia's 3-0 win over Argentina in the group stage was a clear signal that the team led by midfield maestro Luka Modric was a real threat with their clever passing and movement.

    In their quarter-final clash with Russia, the Croats showed a different side, being willing to slug it out with the Russians for 120 minutes before keeping their cool and winning the shootout in such a partisan atmosphere.

    England, who made an early impression with a 6-1 crushing of Panama in the group stage, then overcame their shootout hoodoo in beating Colombia in the last-16 and looked composed and mature in the 2-0 quarter-final victory over Sweden.

    Croatia may be a small country, but when they take on England, their team's supporters promise to be loud.

    Fans from the Adriatic nation of 4.2 million people have been scrambling to get to Moscow.

    "You can imagine the hectic situation back home. Everybody wants to be at the stadium. It's something very big for us," said Croatia fan Neman, arriving at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

    "If you compare the size of the country I doubt there will be more Croatians [than English fans]. But nevertheless we will be very loud," he added.

    Ten charter planes carrying over 1,500 fans took off from the capital Zagreb for Moscow on Tuesday, Croatian online media TPortal said.

    One tour operator has rented a Boeing 777-300ER, the largest aircraft to land in Croatia, to carry 457 fans to Moscow on Wednesday, Croatian state news agency HINA said.

    The last-minute tours to Russia cost about 7,500 kuna ($1,200), according to TPortal.

    That is equivalent to around quarter of the average annual per capita household income in Croatia as of December, 2016, according to data from macroeconomic analytics agency CEIC. The package does not include a match ticket.

    Meanwhile, England fans, too, have also been heading to Moscow, with dozens converging on London's Heathrow airport on Tuesday in an effort to be part of a potentially landmark sporting moment.

    Russia's Ministry of Communications said the number of applications by Britons for World Cup fan identity documents increased by over 29 percent, or by 6,300 applications, since July 7.

    British Airways, which has seen a 700 percent increase in searches for flights to Russia since England's last-16 penalty shootout win over Colombia, has created hundreds more seats on Moscow flights by using bigger planes.

    About a dozen England fans passing through Heathrow wore dark blue waistcoats over their T-shirts in tribute to Southgate who has taken to wearing a waistcoat on the touch-line along with suit trousers and a dress shirt and tie.

    "I've got a funny feeling that the momentum is so good, and, you know, especially now that we're all going to turn up with special Gareth waistcoats, and that can only help can't it," said fan Lee Walkup, 50.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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