This leads us to Croatia - a small state on the East coast of the Adriatic Sea, more famous as touristic destination until the Championship. Croatia has won the hearts of the millions people and football fans around the World although it has lost in the finals. This has happened thanks to courage and passion for the game. Best example of that is football player Ivan Rakitić who was sick night before the match with England. Exhausted, tired and weak he went on the field and showed incredible spirit and courage, something every citizen needs to have for his country.
Where did those values and courage come from? Just like players, Croatia has gone through hell some years ago. Many Croatian football players grew up during the Croatian Homeland war for independence. For example, Luka Modrić, the best player of the Championship, was a refugee in his childhood and some of his family members were killed during the Croatian War of Independence and Yugoslav People's Army invasion in Croatia. Dejan Lovren and Mario Mandžikić were raised by the sounds of gunshots and grenades. Their homes and lives were completely destroyed during 1990's war, just like many other Croatian houses. This is why many people see themselves in football players, can express solidarity with them and why Croatia was mentally stronger while dreaming about winning the World Cup.
Game after game, Croatia has beaten some serious opponents like Argentina, Russia, Denmark or England. Croatian coach Zlatko Dalić said that in football or in life in general you should never give up! Croatia was the smallest country to enter finals of the football Championship since 1950. Slogan of the team was: 'Small country with big dreams'. That dream has come into reality, although it was not a golden dream but a silver one, which is the best result for Croatian since 1998 when Croatia achieved a bronze medal at the World Cup in France.
Football players were "ambassadors" of Croatia - showing to everybody how Croatians fight and die for their dreams. Only one incident among Croatian "football ambassadors" happened when player Domagoj Vida and Ognjen Vukojević said "Slava Ukraini" (Glory to Ukraine) after the match against Russia (it is explainable as they were players in Ukrainian football clubs). But this was an ungainly, hasty and uninvited statement that landed in the wrong time, especially in the wrong place. Many Croatians did not understand why that was said since Russians welcomed them with open arms and happily in their country. In Croatia this was condemned and seen as inappropriate because Croatians do not see any reasons to involve themselves in that political conflict since it does not have anything to do with Croatia. Evidence of that is when Croatian fans cheered in Moscow with a large flag that said: «Спасибо, Россия» («Thank you, Russia»). Vukojević became dismissed and Vida has got a warning and had to apologize to the Russians. For example, the Russian Duma accepted that apology and even Zhirinovsky said that Russians should support Croatia as the only Slavic team left on the Championship.