Russian Team's World Cup Dream Ends, But Country Hails 'Heroes'

Henry Romero  Reuters

We're paid tribute at this World Cup. The highest paid player in the world sparkled at times on the field, scoring twice, but left the tournament marked mostly by his theatrics on the field.

This tactic was turned on its head against Croatia, with Russian Federation going all out and scoring first but conceding two more before an equaliser deep in the second half of extra time reignited their hopes of a last four spot, the first since the Soviet Union's 1966 run.

Croatia are through to the semi-final of the World Cup after beating Russia/Croatia following a nerve-wracking penalty shootout.

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.

Stanislav Cherchesov, head coach of the most surprising success story at this World Cup of upstarts, expects to take his first phonecall shortly before kick-off this evening.

Croatian fans in Sochi have been delighted with their team's World Cup quarterfinal win over Russia and even Russians have been excited by the game.

She arrived in time for her team's round of 16 clash with Denmark and watched the game from the stands alongside other football fans.

Croatia will now face England on July 11 in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium to decide who will play in the July 15 final, also at Luzhniki.

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"He improves anyone around him, it shows when he is not there, Madrid is a different team without Luka".

Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann will nearly certainly all be around in four years' time, but for Belgium, this World Cup has to be their moment.

Do they have the mentality to beat France in a huge game?

"The most important thing for me is that my national team succeeded and that we do something big".

For Russia, Fyodor Smolov and Mario Fernandes were the ones who missed, while Alan Dzagoev, Sergei Ignashevich and Daler Kuziaev scored.

Many disappointed fans broke out in applause after the tense loss to Croatia, spilling out of bars and viewing areas chanting "Russia" and dancing to music on the streets.

Reuters quoted student Artyom Osadchy as saying: "It was a great match. It's very hard to be here". "It will be a battle again, but I trust us and I have belief in us". We are very motivated and will give our all.

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