Olympic stars join World Cup 2018 frenzy ahead of France-Croatia final

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One more step

Croatia have reached their first World Cup final after beating England 2-1 in extra time in a thrilling semi-final in Moscow.

Mario Mandzukic scored the winner in the 109th minute to set up Sunday’s final against France.

Kieran Trippier curled a free-kick into the top corner to put England ahead after just four minutes, but Ivan Perisic equalised midway through the second half.

While Croatian fans went into ecstasy in the Luzhniki Stadium stands, the Twitterspere was lit up with joyous Olympic stars celebrating their team’s success.

 

Double world high jump champion and London 2012 silver medallist Blanka Vlasic had clearly been shouting her team on to their historic triumph.

 

The Sinkovic brothers, fresh from their own rowing exploits on English soil, were also delighted.

Former US Open champion Marin Cilic was a surprise second-round casualty at Wimbledon, but he has found plenty of consolation in his nation’s Russian escapades.

Discus queen Sandra Perkovic, Olympic champion both in 2012 and 2016, had this message to share before the match.

Four-time Olympic skiing champion Janica Kostelic was also pumped before kick-off.

For a country with a population of just over four million, this is a magnificent achievement.

Croatia was founded in 1991 after the break-up of Yugoslavia but the team were not officially registered with FIFA in time to take part in qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup.

They did reach the 1998 finals in France where Davor Suker’s goals fired them to third place.

Allez les Bleus

Awaiting Croatia are France who edged past Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday in Saint Petersburg.

Midfield ace Paul Pogba dedicated his side’s win to the 12 boys who were rescued after being trapped in a cave for nearly two weeks in Thailand.

France clinched their only previous World Cup crown in 1998, with Zinedine Zidane scoring twice in their 3-0 final win over Brazil.

Before that, they beat Croatia 2-1 in the semi-finals.

France’s most successful Olympian in history, five-time biathlon gold medallist Martin Fourcade, is bringing back memories of that triumph of 20 years ago.

Fourcade’s good friend, Olympic judo champion Teddy Riner, and PyeongChang 2018 ice dance silver medallist Gabriella Papadakis were feeling equally emotional and supportive.

Historic occasion

French Sports Minister, five-time Olympic fencing medallist Laura Flessel, called it a “historic occasion”. The politician can’t wait for the ‘rendez-vous’ to begin.

Rio 2016 super-heavyweight boxing champ Tony Yoka was feeling patriotic, announcing that the whole country is behindΒ Didier Deschamps’Β team.

Tennis pro Alize CornetΒ even called the French squad “Dream Team”.

You can relive the Olympic final at Rio 2016 here!

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