On train to Sochi, Russia fans eye semi-final spot

Carla Harmon
July 8, 2018

There was joy for Dejan Lovren as Croatia set up a World Cup semi-final with England after a dramatic penalty shootout win over Russian Federation on Saturday night.

The overachieving hosts, the lowest ranked team in the tournament at No. 70, were trying to make it to the World Cup semifinals for the first time since the Soviet Union finished fourth at the 1966 tournament in England.

Russia President Vladimir Putin was understood to have watched the match with a Kremlin report later saying he was "proud" of the team. "I am crying! We will party all night", said a fan before being mobbed by other fans on the main square in Zagreb.

Russian fans celebrated late into the night after the host team exceeded expectations on July 1 and defeated powerful Spain, ranked No. 10 in the world by Federation Internationale de Football Association, also on penalty kicks, building the anticipation and hopes for the quarterfinal match.

"The most important thing for me is that my national team succeeded and that we do something big".

"Putin called me during the day, and he called me right now", Cherchesov said. "We told him we were disappointed".

"We want to enjoy this victory and not put more pressure on ourselves with what happened in 1998 - what they did was impressive but we want to keep writing our own history and enjoy what we are doing which is very positive".

Dozens of Russian Federation fans, including Yegorov, gathered on the platform of Moscow's Kazansky Railway Station on Friday for a 1,500-kilometre (932-mile) journey to the Black Sea resort city of Sochi to watch their side take on Croatia in the last eight. Fans spilling out of bars chanted "Russia", dancing in the street and singing along as music blared.

These are two exciting European sides with great futures ahead of them. "What we achieved, that was so cool", Andrey, a lawyer, said next to a street corner screen that had shown the match.

"It was a great match". France won 4-2 when the teams met in the group stages in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

The game was hardly the most exciting 120 minutes of football, although it was still better than France vs Denmark, and the teams couldn't be separated in "normal" time.

"You saw who took the penalties". "We have succeeded I believe, but it's time to take a step forward". "It was a very dignified game", Evgenia, 36, a psychologist, said.

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