Mandzukic warns Pickford to expect 'surprise' from Croatia

Mandzukic warns Pickford to expect 'surprise' from Croatia

In the shootout, Mateo Kovacic missed his kick for Croatia, but two misses by Russia's Fedor Smolov and Fernandes handed The Blazers passage to the semis where England await.

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.

England, the 1966 World Cup champion, last reached the semifinals in 1990.

Russia's most-capped player Sergei Ignashevich announced his retirement from soccer on Sunday after the hosts were eliminated by Croatia on penalties in the World Cup quarter-final hours earlier.

Croatia will next play England in the semifinals on Wednesday in Moscow.

The coach of the 1998 side, Jaroslav Ciro Blazevic, said for a long time he did not want any other team to match his players' achievements. "But hopefully we can do our jobs on Wednesday as a team and individuals and contain them". "That in future we talk about them", said Blazevic, now 83, and known in Croatia as the "coach of all coaches".

There is little prospect that they would have come this far without Modric, who as a boy was forced to flee his village home after his grandfather was killed by Serb forces in the Croatian independence war.

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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.

Croatia has reached the final four on one previous occasion, at the 1998 World Cup in France.

"They have been playing at an extremely high level for their clubs".

"I can't tell you their gameplan or tactics - but I know our gameplan". We have two matches to play and we are very motivated. But we have top center-backs.

Croatia defender Domagoj Vida also scored in extra time with a header in the 101st minute. But we have shown throughout the tournament that all of our players are unsafe. We are on the right track to repeat that feat but it is not going to be easy.

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

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