Russia's unexpectedly strong performance in World Cup 2018 has won over a new generation of fans despite the team's exit at the quarter-final stage. Meticulous preparation - including a trip to the United States to take in an National Basketball Association game - the selection of specific players with strong dead-ball delivery, and the defensive nature of high-pressure tournament soccer has led to a point where set pieces could yet lead England to a second World Cup title. Davor Suker's penalty edged Croatia past Romania in the last 16 before a thumping 3-0 victory over Germany in the quarter-finals - with Suker again on the scoresheet - saw them book a meeting with hosts France in the semis. City bars were packed to capacity and emotions were high every time they played.
There was a surprise inclusion among the 23 players as a rubber chicken was thrown around in the early part of training.
Croatia can expect a hostile reception at the Fisht Stadium on Saturday.
Thibaut Courtois made a string of brilliant saves to keep Brazil at bay, Jordan Pickford made three magnificent stops to keep Sweden out, Hugo Lloris made out great save against Uruguay for France when the score was still 0-0 and Danijel Subasic was once again an intimidating presence in the penalty shootout as Croatia got past Russian Federation.
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Peskov said Putin had watched the games remotely.
"There are reservations, but not as many", she added. "We are glad to see you". "Hopefully our right-back Sime Vrsaljko is not so injured like he thinks, so hopefully we can manage".
"Hendo was another one who was feeling tightness in his hamstring, which was why we made the change".
The praise heaped on the Russian authorities by fans and media alike has been music to the ears of both Federation Internationale de Football Association boss Gianni Infantino and Russian president Vladimir Putin, with most of the negative stereotypes about the country pushed aside amid a carnival atmosphere inside and outside stadiums.
"We have enough time to rest and prepare well", he said. "I have responsibility for the team".
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"It's a great honor for us to [be here], we are playing for our country with passion".
Up front, Mario Mandzukic was leaden and static and a strike rate of one goal apiece in five games for him, Inter Milan's Ivan Perisic and Eintracht Frankfurt's Ante Rebic is disappointing.
The players and fans sang the national anthem together before the team left the Fan Fest venue to chants of "Thank you".
The world has its eyes fixed on the big games ahead.
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