Underdog status suits Croatia perfectly for World Cup final - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Underdog status suits Croatia perfectly for World Cup final

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo/Frank Augstein). Croatia's Dejan Lovren celebrates after Croatia's Mario Mandzukic scored his side's second goal during the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, We... (AP Photo/Frank Augstein). Croatia's Dejan Lovren celebrates after Croatia's Mario Mandzukic scored his side's second goal during the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, We...
(AP Photo/Frank Augstein). Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic, right, celebrates with Luka Modric after his team advanced to the final during the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, R... (AP Photo/Frank Augstein). Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic, right, celebrates with Luka Modric after his team advanced to the final during the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, R...
(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell). Croatia's Dejan Lovren lies on the pitch during the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell). Croatia's Dejan Lovren lies on the pitch during the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 11, 2018.
(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko). Croatia fans celebrate their team victory after the semifinal soccer match between Croatia and England during the 2018 soccer World Cup in Nikolskaya street near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, July 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko). Croatia fans celebrate their team victory after the semifinal soccer match between Croatia and England during the 2018 soccer World Cup in Nikolskaya street near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, July 12, 2018.
  • NationalMore>>

  • Gala opens countdown to 50th anniversary of 1st moon landing

    Gala opens countdown to 50th anniversary of 1st moon landing

    Sunday, July 22 2018 9:46 AM EDT2018-07-22 13:46:12 GMT
    (AP Photo/Alex Sanz, File). FILE - In this July 15, 2017, file photo, Christina Korp, Buzz Aldrin's business manager, speaks at the commemoration for the upcoming anniversary of the 1969 mission to the moon and a gala for the non-profit space education...(AP Photo/Alex Sanz, File). FILE - In this July 15, 2017, file photo, Christina Korp, Buzz Aldrin's business manager, speaks at the commemoration for the upcoming anniversary of the 1969 mission to the moon and a gala for the non-profit space education...
    Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin is expected to be noticeably absent from a gala kicking off a yearlong celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the first moon-landing, even though his foundation is a sponsor and...More >>
    Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin is expected to be noticeably absent from a gala kicking off a yearlong celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the first moon-landing, even though his foundation is a sponsor and he typically is the star attraction.More >>
  • Grandfather arrested after California boy shoots cousin, 2

    Grandfather arrested after California boy shoots cousin, 2

    Sunday, July 22 2018 9:46 AM EDT2018-07-22 13:46:08 GMT
    (Watchara Phomicinda/The Orange County Register via AP). San Bernardino County Sheriff's personnel investigate the scene of a fatal shooting, Friday, July 20, 2018 in Muscoy, Calif. Authorities say a 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his 2-ye...(Watchara Phomicinda/The Orange County Register via AP). San Bernardino County Sheriff's personnel investigate the scene of a fatal shooting, Friday, July 20, 2018 in Muscoy, Calif. Authorities say a 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his 2-ye...
    Authorities have arrested the grandfather of a 2-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed by her 4-year-old cousin in Southern California.More >>
    Authorities have arrested the grandfather of a 2-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed by her 4-year-old cousin in Southern California.More >>
  • Survivor recounts boat accident that killed 9 family members

    Survivor recounts boat accident that killed 9 family members

    Sunday, July 22 2018 9:46 AM EDT2018-07-22 13:46:04 GMT
    (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel). People pray outside Ride the Ducks, an amphibious tour operator involved in a boating accident on Table Rock Lake, Friday, July 20, 2018 in Branson, Mo.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel). People pray outside Ride the Ducks, an amphibious tour operator involved in a boating accident on Table Rock Lake, Friday, July 20, 2018 in Branson, Mo.
    More than half of the 17 people killed when a tourist boat sank on a Branson lake were members of the same Indiana family, and they likely wouldn't have been on the ill-fated trip but for a ticket mix-up.More >>
    More than half of the 17 people killed when a tourist boat sank on a Branson lake were members of the same Indiana family, and they likely wouldn't have been on the ill-fated trip but for a ticket mix-up.More >>

By JAMES ELLINGWORTH
AP Sports Writer

MOSCOW (AP) - A billion-dollar assembly of stars makes France the favorite for the World Cup final, a scenario that Dejan Lovren is pitching as perfect for Croatia's biggest ever game.

"We love to be the underdogs," Lovren said in the wake of Croatia's England 2-1 extra-time win over England.

With a population of 4.3 million and a history of struggle, it's easy to see why. Not since Uruguay's win in 1950 has a country of so few people reached a World Cup final.

Croatia's players were born around the time an independent Croatia emerged from the wars which divided the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Lovren and star midfielder Luka Modric were refugees as children.

Croatia still struggles economically and its football scene has been riven with hooliganism, crime and politics.

It's a country that breeds toughness in its players.

The key to Croatia's success in Russia, Lovren said, is "Our mentality."

"War, all these things and even now the situation is not the best," he said. "It's unbelievable how many talents we have in sports."

Two years ago, Croatia's campaign at the 2016 European Championship was overshadowed by turmoil in the stands as fans hurled dozens of flares onto the field in protest against the football federation leadership. A year before that, a swastika was drawn on the field before a national-team game.

Those episodes have led to sanctions from soccer's international governing body, but Lovren is hoping the squad's success at this World Cup will mark a turning point for the country.

"It's not just football, it's a bigger picture for us unfortunately," he said. "Us players, now we change something and everyone is proud of us in Croatia."

Despite the Balkan nation's small population, it is a veritable talent factory in a wide range of sports. There's the former U.S. Open tennis champion Marin Cilic, a raft of current and ex-NBA players, Olympic champions in skiing, discus and the country's beloved water polo.

Most of all, Croatia is an export market for quality footballers, with a squad boasting stars for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.

Until now, Croatia's greatest moment on the football pitch was reaching the World Cup semifinals in 1998, the country's first tournament after becoming independent.

Stars of that team remain household names in Croatia, including the football federation president and ex-Real Madrid striker Davor Suker, who has been with this squad all the way through this World Cup campaign. After the quarterfinal win over Russia, Suker said he'd be delighted if Modric replaced him as Croatia's greatest player of all time.

Instead, he said, "I'll be the greatest president!"

Now that the 2018 squad has gone a step further than the 1998 semifinalists, Lovren and Croatia are creating a narrative beyond anything they experienced as children when the stars of the national team were etched into folk lore following a semifinal loss to France.

"I was only nine. I remember my mum was screaming, she was crying after the French game," Lovren said. "After 20 years people will remember us not any more (than just) '98 - and this is what I wanted."

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • More NewsMore>>

  • Waterfire Sharon kicks off first event with "Magical Moments"

    Waterfire Sharon kicks off first event with "Magical Moments"

    Sunday, July 22 2018 5:24 AM EDT2018-07-22 09:24:47 GMT
    The Shenango River glowed for the first of the three Waterfire Sharon events in downtown Sharon as dozens of braziers were lit by people in boats carrying torches. The lighting ceremony for "Magical Moments" Saturday night took place on the State Street bridge just after 9 p.m. Some travel back to the Shenango Valley for the event each year. "To me it's spiritual and I love the smell of the fires burning, the cedar, I just thoroughly enjoy it," Kay Anderson said...More >>
    The Shenango River glowed for the first of the three Waterfire Sharon events in downtown Sharon as dozens of braziers were lit by people in boats carrying torches. The lighting ceremony for "Magical Moments" Saturday night took place on the State Street bridge just after 9 p.m. Some travel back to the Shenango Valley for the event each year. "To me it's spiritual and I love the smell of the fires burning, the cedar, I just thoroughly enjoy it," Kay Anderson said...More >>
  • Pets killed in Trumbull County fire

    Pets killed in Trumbull County fire

    Sunday, July 22 2018 5:03 AM EDT2018-07-22 09:03:48 GMT

    One dog and two cats are dead after a fire broke out at a Trumbull County home Saturday afternoon. Officials responded to a trailer fire in the 5000 block of Kinsman Road Saturday. The woman who lives there was not home at the time the flames broke out. Firefighters credit a passerby for alerting authorities of the blaze. Orangeville Fire Chief Larry Foltz tells 21 News the west end of the trailer saw the majority of the damage.  The cause remains under investigation.

    More >>

    One dog and two cats are dead after a fire broke out at a Trumbull County home Saturday afternoon. Officials responded to a trailer fire in the 5000 block of Kinsman Road Saturday. The woman who lives there was not home at the time the flames broke out. Firefighters credit a passerby for alerting authorities of the blaze. Orangeville Fire Chief Larry Foltz tells 21 News the west end of the trailer saw the majority of the damage.  The cause remains under investigation.

    More >>
  • EXCLUSIVE Sister of Youngstown mom shot in the head speaks out

    EXCLUSIVE Sister of Youngstown mom shot in the head speaks out

    Sunday, July 22 2018 4:50 AM EDT2018-07-22 08:50:08 GMT
    A mother of two children remains on life support after police found her shot in the head on Youngstown's south side Saturday morning. Denise Thurston, 32, was found slumped over in the driver's seat of a car on Hilton Avenue with a gunshot wound to the head when police were called to the scene at about 4:30 a.m. Police say she was taken to Mercy Health- St. Elizabeth Hospital, where she underwent surgery. Thurston is described by her sister as an outgoing, good mom.  In an ex...More >>
    A mother of two children remains on life support after police found her shot in the head on Youngstown's south side Saturday morning. Denise Thurston, 32, was found slumped over in the driver's seat of a car on Hilton Avenue with a gunshot wound to the head when police were called to the scene at about 4:30 a.m. Police say she was taken to Mercy Health- St. Elizabeth Hospital, where she underwent surgery. Thurston is described by her sister as an outgoing, good mom.  In an ex...More >>
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 WFMJ. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms