Ivan Rakitic: Croatia will have four and a half million players in World Cup final

Take a look back at how darkhorses Croatia and pre-tournament favourites France charted their course to reach the World Cup final.
The FC panel applauds Croatia for its resilience after defeating England in yet another come-from-behind victory.

Ivan Rakitic said that Croatia will feel the support of their entire country when they face France in the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday.

Croatia, who played their first FIFA-sanctioned matches in 1992 after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, finished third in the World Cup in 1998 but had otherwise not advanced beyond the group stage.

“This is a historic game not just for the 13 or 14 players and the squad but also for everybody who is a Croat,” Rakitic said at a news conference on Friday. “There will be 4.5 million players on the pitch.

“I think that you only need to take a look at the footage coming from Croatia to see what’s been going on over the past month. It cannot be described with words, that amount of joy, togetherness, unity, pride. It’s incredible. … If there was a stadium big enough for 4.5 million people, it would be full.”

The Group D winners, Croatia defeated Denmark and Russia on penalties and England in extra time, but Rakitic said that exhaustion will not be a factor because of what’s at stake.

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“There will be excess power and excess energy — no worries about that,” he said. “We will carry one another. We will get the energy.

“We know that this is the biggest game of our lives, and we want to leave the pitch with our heads held high and to be able to say we’ve done everything. We just need a little bit of luck to get the desired result.”

The midfielder, who plays for Barcelona, won the Champions League in 2015 and the Europa League with Sevilla the year before, but said he would trade it all — and joked that he would get a tattoo on his forehead — if Croatia were to win.

Croatia's Ivan Rakitic
Ivan Rakitic said that the support of the entire country would help Croatia in the World Cup final against France.

“I would exchange all titles,” Rakitic said. “I would definitely leave my boots at home if that were the price I would have to pay. … I would pay any price for the success of my country. Individuals don’t matter. It is all about us.”

And though Croatia lost to France, the hosts and eventual winners, in the semifinals in 1998, Rakitic said that result has little bearing now.

“We have to put that game behind us,” Rakitic said. “History is history and the past is the past. We dreamt about [Lilian] Thuram and his two goals for many years but we have to put that past us. They won that tournament. We want to win on Sunday.”