Published: Fri, July 13, 2018
Sport | By Matt Richards

Exhausted Croatia must draw on reserves for France final

Exhausted Croatia must draw on reserves for France final

Croatia players celebrate next to an AFP photographer Yuri Cortez after Mario Mandzukic scores their second goal.

With such a modest population, they are the smallest country to get to a World Cup final since Uruguay back in 1950, and in the modern game it is a staggering achievement.

The highest-placed team beaten by Gareth Southgate's side in the tournament are Tunisia, who are number 14 in the Federation Internationale de Football Association rankings.

Both had already qualified for the round of 16 when Belgium beat England 1-0 in the last game of the group stage on Adnan Januzaj's curling shot in a game likened to a friendly thanks to 17 lineup changes.

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Federation Internationale de Football Association began ranking global sides based on their performances in 1993 and has modified its system several times since.

France's forward Kylian Mbappe runs with the ball during the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup semifinal football match between France and Belgium at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on July 10, 2018.

Should France overcome Croatia in Moscow on Sunday, the Academy graduate will join Bobby Charlton, John Connelly and Nobby Stiles - who were part of England's 1966 triumph - in the history books. This shows character and is what makes me proud.

Rio Ferdinand heaped praise on Paul Pogba for his strong performance for France in their 1-0 win over Belgium in the World Cup semi-finals on Tuesday night.

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"I've known Pogba for a long time". I think it is too easy to move on immediately from what we've just been through.

"Want to know how insane we are?" said Fran Colak, a Croatian Saultite who had come down to the gathering to watch the semi-final game. We did not underestimate them. "We're in control and we've had an ideal start". "I just hope they can do it tonight".

"It's fantastic, we're so excited", said Christopher Tomas, owner of the Croatian Corner deli, of Croatia's win. "It's not the game we wanted to be in, as a team". Croatia lost that encounter 2-1 before going on to secure bronze - until Wednesday their best performance at a global finals. "But we have our hearts, our pride and our players and that is what is really important to us".

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