Russian Federation and Croatia Take World Cup Spotlight

Russian Federation and Croatia Take World Cup Spotlight

Russian Federation and Croatia Take World Cup Spotlight

"Those memories are painful and the players realise this is their time", said Bilic. "We're not working much now so you can imagine what it will be like if we win".

They may have lost 4-3 to Croatia on penalties after 2-2 draw in regular and extra time in the quarter-finals at to exit the tournament on Saturday, but for many reasons, Russian players and fans have exited the tournament with their heads held high.

"Those emotions are what drive us, that is our petrol and how we have come back to a semi-final after 20 years".

Despite the pre-World Cup barbs and snipes regarding Russia's quality and the politically-charged commentary related to the hosts, they bowed out in style, having exceeded expectations and injected the tournament with a healthy dose of enthusiasm.

While Croatian players, who have been asked constantly about the generation of 1998 and never fail to express their admiration for the likes of Zvonimir Boban and Davor Suker, those comparisons are a weight they feel is unneeded.

Jenas and Modric played in midfield together at Spurs, though the Croatian has gone on to hit even greater heights, winning the Champions League four times and La Liga once with Real Madrid.

Former Croatia coach Slaven Bilic believes a constant theme in their national sides is their ability to raise their game against big sides, hence their low-key performances against Denmark and Russian Federation in the knockout stages, beating both on penalties, should be disregarded.

"And physical preparation. If the player is not in good physical shape, he will not play well in a World Cup".

He has, however, noted the set-piece threat posed by Gareth Southgate's men.

"We are not putting more pressure on ourselves with what happened in 1998", said midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

Tuesday's clash in St Petersburg has all the makings of a classic, with fans and viewers likely to be treated to the sight of two wonderfully attacking teams going toe-to-toe.

"That defeat is completely irrelevant", he said, with a face like thunder.

"I am very close to him at Liverpool and wish him all the best - but, like I say, hopefully that journey for him ends tomorrow". You are just nitpicking a bad performance.

"He could go on and that was the most important thing", Modric said of his goalkeeper.

"He is our captain, our leader, we follow him and if the team manages a great result and he gets the Ballon d'Or he will deserve it, and I want it for him".

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