Hundreds of thousands of people turned out to welcome the Croatian football team home, after their valiant effort in the World Cup.
Around 110,000 people packed out Bana Jelacica Square in Zagreb, while thousands more lined the streets to see the players, according to Total Croatia News.
The finalists arrived back in Zagreb yesterday, (July 16), after losing 4-2 to France in the final on Sunday (July 15).
This was the first time Croatia reached a World Cup final, and despite the loss, the players were given the heroes welcome they deserved.
Check out the footage here:
The national team were greeted with flares and hoards of cheering fans as they made their way to Bana Jelacica Square in the capital city, reports the Daily Mail.
Croatia have played in the World Cup five times since declaring independence from Yugoslavia back in 1991. Until now, their best result was third place in 1998 in France.
Team captain Luka Modrić, who won the Golden Ball award for the tournament’s best player, spoke about his team and their performance after the final, saying:
I think we were the better team but sometimes better teams don’t win. I don’t really realise what has happened yet – the World Cup is a lot.
But I’m so proud of this team, the players, the staff. We were really united as a group. We did something incredible, we made history and we are going to enjoy it.
The 32-year-old, four-time Champions League winner also told reporters how he was ‘proud to have received the award for myself’ but wanted ‘to win a trophy with Croatia’.
As the team celebrated their second-place achievement, driving through the city in an open-top bus, fans paved the streets dressed in their team’s red and white jersey, waving the national flag.
Defender Dejan Lovren, who plays for Liverpool, wrote on Instagram:
There is no end to this […] We will always have this in our hearts forever
Television coverage of the team’s return began as soon as their plane landed back in Zagreb.
Fans were urged to take to the streets to enjoy ‘the historic moment’, with national transport tickets being halved and public transport around the capital free for the day, according to DW.
Though they didn’t take home the coveted trophy, Croatia’s efforts throughout the tournament were applauded by pundits, especially after the surprise result which saw them knock out Argentina 3-0 in the group stage.
They also defeated Denmark and Russia, both on penalties, in the knock-out stages before coming from 1-0 down to beat England 2-1 in extra time of the semi-final.
Croatia’s president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, also made headlines as she displayed pride and passion for her team throughout the tournament.
She attended every match, standing with fans and even wore her own red and white jersey for the final.
Great respect to the President of Croatia:
— ARIEL TANHUECO (@ariel_tanhueco) July 15, 2018
President Grabar-Kitarovic was seen jumping and cheering throughout the final in Moscow, embracing all the players at the end of the game and congratulating them on their magnificent efforts, both in the final and in the rest of the tournament.
Though they may have stumbled in the final, it looks like Croatia have got the right attitude when it comes to celebrating sporting achievements.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.