Croatia plots 'football Brexit' as England World Cup semi looms

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"It was a bit of a joke to begin with that football was coming home".

"We take it on the chin, we move on. Massive opportunity lost for England tonight", English said.

The national team's unexpected run to the quarterfinals sparked a surge of support from fans who had been mostly indifferent before the World Cup started.

And spirits were high in central Moscow as fans sang and cheered late into the night on the eve of the biggest game in almost three decades - a first World Cup semi-final since Italia 90.

Croatia captain Luka Modric said his side showed character on Saturday to get through "another drama" after edging to a second straight shootout win to knock out Russian Federation and set up a World Cup semi-final with England. "And physical preparation. If the player is not in good physical shape, he will not play well in a World Cup". This is one of the best, if not the best. In 2002, 2006 and 2014 they were eliminated in the group stages, and they failed to qualify for the 2010 tournament.

World Cup glory beckons for Croatian stars such as Luka Modric after several traumatic experiences at major tournaments, says their former coach Slaven Bilic.

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.

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Now they are looking to go one step further, but just getting this far is a source of great pride for Croatia.

If England do go all the way, then some punters will have extra reasons to celebrate. The favourites, the big teams are home.

They were briefly silenced when Croatia equalised through Ivan Perisic in the middle of the second half. It's incredible to even be talking about the prospect of an England World Cup triumph but 34% of bets in the victor market, shows that many people are daring to dream.

Among them were Will Carr and Dale Goulding, who made the decision to book flights last Thursday before progress was guaranteed.

After 10 years of Real's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi dominating the Ballon d'Or, there has been talk that leading his country to World Cup glory could see Modric break the pair's stranglehold on the award for the world's best player.

England comes in with 40.3 per cent of the vote - the majority among the four teams - ahead of Belgium's 28.67 per cent, Croatia at 19.32 per cent and France's 11.71 per cent.

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