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Russian fans sad but proud after World Cup exit

Russian fans sad but proud after World Cup exit
By Hermione Gee & Alice Tidey
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Russians have expressed pride that their team - the lowest ranked in the tournament - had made it so far.


For Russians, the sadness was mixed with pride on Saturday evening after their team — the lowest ranked in the tournament — was halted in its tracks to World Cup glory by Croatia in a dramatic quarter-final match.

The host nation bowed out after losing 4-3 on penalties following a 2-2 draw. 

President Vladimir Putin is said to be "proud" of the team's efforts.

"He watched. He was rooting for the team. We lost in a fair and great game. They are still great guys for us, they are heroes. They were dying on the pitch, we are proud with them," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov is quoted as saying by Interfax.

The players and head coach Stanislav Cherchesov have been invited by Putin to  "to sum up the results of the championship and discuss Russia’s World Cup heritage," Peskov told Russian news agency TASS on Sunday.

Sergei Saprykin and Maria Karlova from Sevastopol said they were ''completely satisfied with the game''.

''Russia hasn't shown anything like this before. We played in the quarter finals for the first time in our lives."

'Thank you for everything'

The team said in a Twitter post that it was leaving the tournament "with tears in our eyes, but with our heads held high."

"Thank you for the sincere, genuine emotions you gave us thoughout the World Cup," they wrote.

Some of the players also took to social media to thank teammates and fans, including goal keeper Igor Akinfeev.

"Thanks to the team for all the emotion and sleepless nights!!! Thank you for everything," he wrote.

Defender Sergei Ignashevich thanked people "for the kind words" in a Instagram post.

"I could never have imagined that I would finish my football career on such a high note! I'm happy that I was part of this team, with this coach and this country for almost 20 years," he added.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was jailed multiple times for staging anti-corruption protests and who was barred from running in the March presidential election, also hailed the team on Twitter.

"This is a team the country can be proud of. Thank you guys for the fact that millions of people were simultaneously chanting; Russia!," he wrote.


Croatia celebrates

Croatia fans in Zagreb, meanwhile, erupted with joy as their side went through to the semi finals of the World Cup in what was the second straight match for both teams to be decided on a penalty shootout.

Iva Majoli said: "It was an amazing atmosphere for Russia and very difficult for Croatia when the whole stadium is against you. But I think we have such amazing players, very experienced and we showed it in the penalties that we have the players who are playing in the best teams in the world."

In the stadium, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović was caught celebrating the national team's win with a little dance next to Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Croatia will play England in the semi-finals on Wednesday in Moscow.

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