WORLD CUP DIARY: How the 'disrespectful' attitude of the English media motivated Croatia

Croatia's forward Mario Mandzukic (C-L) and Croatia's midfielder Ivan Rakitic (C2R) speak to AFP photographer Yuri Cortez (C) after falling on him with teammates while celebrating their second goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final football match between Croatia and England at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 11, 2018.
Croatia's forward Mario Mandzukic (C-L) and Croatia's midfielder Ivan Rakitic (C2R) speak to AFP photographer Yuri Cortez (C) after falling on him with teammates while celebrating their second goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final football match between Croatia and England at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 11, 2018.
Image: AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD

Croatia claim England showed them a lack of respect ahead of their World Cup semifinal but France have been sure they do not make the same mistake.

Sunday’s final promises to be a fascinating finale to a fine World Cup as Croatia seek a most unlikely title and France look to repeat their heroics of 20 years ago.

RESPECT

Luka Modric admitted his Croatia side did not need much motivation in their 2-1 World Cup semifinal win over England on Wednesday‚ but were given added fire by the “disrespectful” attitude of the English media and fans.

The English media had claimed that what they expected to be a tired Croatia after two matches lasting 120 minutes in the knockouts would wilt against a fresher‚ young England.

"Especially English journalists‚ pundits from television‚ they underestimated Croatia tonight and that was a huge mistake‚" Modric told ITV Sport.

"All these words from them we take‚ we were reading and we were saying‚ 'OK‚ today we will see who will be tired'.

"And like I said they should be more humble and respect more opponents.

"But we showed again that we were not tired‚ we dominated the game physically‚ mentally‚ in all aspects."

NO FAVOURITES

Paul Pogba has gone the other way to the English media and declared his France side are not favourites for Sunday’s final‚ despite what many people believe.

The midfielder says that his team has not achieved anything yet and that they can only be judged after the final in Moscow.

"For me‚ we are not favourites.

"We did not forget the doubts about us at the beginning of the competition‚ about our ability to play together. We haven't done anything yet‚" he told reporters.

"Croatia do not have stars [above the badge] – they want one. They have done very well and they want the victory‚ like us.

"But I do not have a star. It's on the shirt‚ but I did not win it. We want to go looking for it like all players. It will be a World Cup final‚ a great match‚ difficult.”

France’s only previous World Cup success came on home soil in 1998.

THE ONE AND ONLY

Dejan Lovren has declared that he is one of the best defenders in the world after helping Croatia into Sunday’s final against France in Moscow.

Anybody who has watched him for Liverpool in recent seasons will tell you he is most definitely not‚ with a number of calamitous errors‚ but he is at least showing the kind of self-confidence needed to win a World Cup.

“We showed our character. We showed that we deserved to be in the final and people should respect us‚” Lovren told reporters.

“Sometimes‚ the criticism is unfair and people should respect me also. Without being arrogant‚ I think I have [been one of the best defenders in the world]. Definitely.”

Even the most ardent Liverpool fans will likely raise an eye-brow to that view‚ as Lovren went on to laude his countrymen beating the odds.

“We went through a lot of s**t: war‚ all these things‚ and even now the situation is not the best. But it is unbelievable how many talents we have in sport.

“At basketball‚ at handball‚ at water polo‚ at tennis especially. We have good mothers and fathers‚ making good love.”

SLAB-HEAD

One of the more amusing stories from the World Cup was when England striker Jamie Vardy gate-crashed an official press conference with Harry Maguire ahead of their semifinal.

When given the opportunity to ask a question‚ he said” “It’s Jamie Vardy from the Vardy Express‚ how big is the diameter of your head?”

Maguire‚ who Leicester City teammate Vardy calls “Slab-Head”‚ and scored against Sweden in the quarterfinals with a towering header and is also a former rugby player in his younger days.

He never did get an answer it seems‚ though it did bring back memories of former Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba’s son sneaking into a press conference to ask his father loaded questions!

LARGESSE

The Kenyan public has reacted with fury as 20 of the country’s members of parliament (MPs) have travelled to the World Cup in Russia at the taxpayers’ expense.

The group are taking in four games‚ including Sunday’s final‚ and have been caught out after posting selfies from the venues.

It seems that a delegation from the country’s parliament was given the green light to attend the competition‚ but only six should have travelled according to Sports Minister Rashid Echesa‚ and not the 20 that eventually went.

The six-member group was supposed to be on a fact-finding mission to assess how to stage major international events.

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