Over half a million Croats greet World Cup silver medalists

NEWS 16.07.2018 21:20
Source: Reuters

Croatia's World Cup runners-up have returned home to a massive welcome ceremony at Ban Josip Jelacic Square in Zagreb on Monday, the day after losing the World Cup final 4-2 against France in Moscow.

According to the latest police estimates on Monday evening, a crowd of over 550,000 football supporters greeted the Croatian national team, including more than 110,000 ecstatic fans gathered in Zagreb's main square to welcome back their heroes, and few hundreds of thousands who lined the entire 20-kilometre route the open-top bus that took footballers from the airport to the city centre.

The team, carried by a Croatia Airlines plane, touched down at Zagreb Airport at 15:22 hours, after being escorted in a low flyover over city centre by the Croatian Air Force MiG-21 fighter jets sporting chequered liveries.

They then proceeded to the city centre in an open rooftop bus decorated with Croatian flags. A helicopter carrying the Croatian flag was flying overhead. The 20-kilometre-long route took five and a half hours, as all the city's main avenues were lined with crowds of supporters.

The team finally reached the main square shortly before 21:00 hours, when the main square erupted in the biggest homecoming celebration the country has ever seen.

The team made it back as heroes after guiding Croatia to their best ever finish at a World Cup, eclipsing the nation's best achievement so far, winning third place in its debut appearance in 1998.

Thousands of fans who started flocking to Zagreb yesterday packed into the square to try and get a glimpse of their heroes, who appeared on stage on Monday evening where they thanked supporters and joined popular singers in singing patriotic songs.

“I don't think there are words to describe what we are feeling now. We are proud to have had the opportunity to fight for our colours. We were all together in Russia. Thank you for everything. We will continue fighting to make you happy and proud,” Ivan Rakitic told the crowd.

“Thank you, Croatia! Thank you, Zagreb! We achieved our dream!”, said the team captain and winner of the Golden Ball for the Best Player of the tournament, Luka Modric.

“I have no words to describe what you did this evening,” said team coach Zlatko Dalić.

“We played for ourselves, for our families, for you and for the entire country. For Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for all the Croats living abroad, and for our war veterans, because if it wasn't for them, there would be no chequerboard,” Dalic added.

Also on Monday, Google dedicated its homepage to the Croatian fans with an illustration showing Croatian supporters, and the words “Bravo Hrvatska!” (Bravo Croatia!)

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