Monday, 16 July 2018
Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.

Email: mark.thomas@dubrovnik-times.com

The Croatian team has come home to an incredible welcome! The streets and main square of the capital Zagreb were completely packed as the team bus made its way from the airport to the centre to celebrate with the fans.

According to official estimates from the police there were over 450,000 supporters waiting along the streets and when the plane landed the whole country went absolutely crazy. “I haven’t seen scenes like this since Croatia was declared an independent country,” commented one joyous fan. Red and white squares, flags, fireworks and deafening songs awaited the heroes from Russia as they made their way in an open-top bus.

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People had arrived from all four corners of Croatia! They had come by bus, taxi, train and many had walked miles and miles just to get a glimpse of the silver medal winners from the 2018 World Cup.

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As the Croatia Airlines flight carrying the players entered Croatian airspace it was immediately greeted with a warm message of thanks and congratulations from the air traffic controllers. And as it approached Zagreb Airport three Croatia Air force MIG fighters flew alongside the plane. Upon landing the country went wild. The plane was drenched by two firefighting trucks in a shower of water to show their appreciation.

Absolutely incredible scenes and the official coach still hasn’t made it to the centre of Zagreb…more to come later. So far the coach has been driving for more than four hours and is yet to make the normal 20 minutes drive from the airport to the centre of Zagreb. 

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One of the Croatian stars that has been flying high in the World Cup isn’t even playing on the pitch. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the President of Croatia, has been backing the team all the way and she has certainly caught the attention of the world’s media.

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Wearing the iconic Croatian football shirt and cheering loudly from the VIP lounge of the stadiums Kolinda has continued and enhanced the positive spirit for her homeland. With a population of only a little over 4 million it seemed that the whole world was backing Croatia in the World Cup Final. And Kolinda’s photos and videos have gone absolutely viral all over the world.

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Even here at The Dubrovnik Times we have received numerous invitations for interviews and information and the latest one from the BBC is all about the Croatian President. Kolinda has gone viral and promoted the country in the best possible light to the world.

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Dubrovnik has made it onto another world travel list, this time the aptly named “The World's Best Once-in-a-lifetime Journeys for 2018.” This recognition is particularly important as it was judged by 515 of the world’s leading travel professionals. A massive 2,500 world journeys were evaluated and Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian coastal road came in at a lofty tenth position.

“Sapphire seas, almighty mountains, and historic villages are just a few of the sites to explore during a drive along the scenic Dalmatian Coast of Croatia,” opens the article on Croatia.

Adding that “Croatia is an Eastern European country embraced by a striking coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Made up of more than a thousand islands, its pristine coastline is met with some of the most stunning, deep-blue waters in the world.”

Check out the full article here

Even the most popular search engine in the world is celebrating Croatia’s World Cup success. Google have added a Croatian fan inspired design on the homepage of their website today in honour of the silver medal the team won at the finals in Moscow.

Featuring the iconic red and white squared shirts and fan scenes the image is a great advert and publicity for Croatia, and proof that football has the biggest reach of any team sport. Clicking on the image brings readers through to info about the final and the Croatian team.

Croatia’s captain and inspiration Luka Modric has been awarded with the Golden Ball for being the player of the 2018 World Cup. Modric, who truly was the dominate force in Croatia’s midfield, becomes the first Croatian to win the Golden Ball. In 1998 Davor Suker won the Silver Ball as well as the Golden Boot for his six goals.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic commented that "He played a terrific tournament which is another commendation for the team which helped to bring about Luka's success. He made the lion’s share of our play and he was a deserved winner of the Golden Ball."

The Silver Ball went to Eden Hazard of Belgium, with the Bronze Ball going to Antoine Griezmann of France.

In other awards the England captain, Harry Kane, won the Golden Boot after finishing the top scorer of the World Cup with six goals. Whilst Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois picked up the Golden Glove for being the leading goalkeeper. The best Young Player Award went to the impressive Kylian Mbappe (19) from France.

 

With their passionate performances and never say die attitude Croatia have certainly made millions of friends on and off the pitch this World Cup campaign. Every neutral was cheering on for Croatia on Sunday as they took on France in the final.

And before the big game the Croatian President, Kolinda Grabra Kitarovic, took the opportunity to meet with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and exchange opinions. Dressed in the iconic red and white checked Croatia football shirt, a shirt that she has been wearing for the majority of the World Cup, she presented the Russian President with similar shirt whilst Putin gave her a large bouquet of flowers.

The two Presidents went on the watch the final together.

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Songs, fireworks, car horns and flags blocked one of the main roads in Dubrovnik as fans celebrated Croatia’s impressive World Cup campaign that will see them coming home with the silver, the best result ever for the Croatian national football team.

On the main gate into the historic Old City of Dubrovnik a mass celebration was held that blocked the road for cars, buses and taxis…but who cares Croatia are silver medallists. Police made sure that the parade was lead safely but the sheer amount of people meant that the road had to be closed.

Dubrovnik has never seen scenes like this before, the city will not sleep tonight as supporters welcome a magnificent World Cup, a championship in which Croatia has stolen the hearts of millions of football fans with their never say die attitude and extreme hard work. As one UK publication wrote on their headline – France won the World Cup but Croatia won the hearts of millions.

Thank you “Vatreni” for making the summer of 2018 a summer never to forget.

The sun may have set on the Croatian World Cup campaign after losing 4 – 2 to France in Moscow but the team has certainly done the nation proud.

Zlatko Dalic and his side will return home to a hero’s welcome, and it is well deserved. They made history. The first time that they have made it to the final of a World Cup and the smallest nation to reach a World Cup final since Uruguay in 1950.

Croatian fans, whilst a little disappointed, are extremely proud of their team’s achievements. Celebrations will continue long into the night; this video was the scene on the tiny Dubrovnik island of Kolocep just after the final whistle.

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