24,000 fans thank Russian players for fantastic World Cup display

Russia's Alan Dzagoev gestures during the penalty shootout at the quarterfinal match between Russia and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Fisht Stadium in Sochi Russia Saturday

Croatia have been pushed to the brink twice in penalties, and England may well be fresher due to getting their business done in the 90 minutes against Sweden.

For many England supporters, the 3-2 loss to Croatia in November 2007 was a national embarrassment.

Former Croatia striker Davor Suker has claimed that England are "lucky" to still be in the 2018 World Cup.

"And we have to be like that, I think, if we are going to get in the final, so we'll have to perform well and play well."

Following in the footsteps of the 1998 World Cup heroes, where Croatia finished third, Mandzukic believes the current squad has the ideal mix of experience and youth to handle the big occasion.

Of the four semi finalists, only England and France know what it's like to lift the famous trophy, and England's triumph came as far back as 1966.

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These young stars have all stepped up for their respective national teams and it's telling that they will all be involved in the World Cup semi finals, whilst none of the aforementioned big three are even still in Russian Federation.

"Not revenge, it's football", he said, adding that he wished Croatia was facing a weaker England team. "We will respect this team". At this stage the goal power of Belgium, they have scored 14 goals in five games, gives them the edge and they reach their first World Cup final with a 2-1 win over the French.

And it earned the exhausted group a date with England in the semifinals.

"We are not putting more pressure on ourselves with what happened in 1998", said midfielder Ivan Rakitic. When captain Igor Akinfeev and talisman Artem Dzyuba were handed the microphone to address the fans, all of Vorobyovy Gory was drowned out in applause. It's football, 11 against 11, 11 warriors.

After returning from their Friday quarterfinals in Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan, respectively, France and Belgium worked out at their Moscow-area training bases Sunday before heading to St. Petersburg for their Tuesday night semifinal. England hosts Croatia on November 18 in the return fixture. The game will be played at an empty venue because Croatia is under a stadium ban from UEFA imposed back in 2015 when a swastika was painted on its field ahead of a game.

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