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Host country left the tournament after unexpectedly successful performance, while its victorious opponent, Croatia, found itself surrounded by a number of controversies.10 July 2018
Even in defeat, Russia’s lengthy run in the World Cup tournament burst into national pride throughout the country following the quarterfinal defeat to Croatia last Saturday, according to The Guardian. Russia forced the match to go into extra time, with a penalty shootout leading to Croatia’s victory.
Observers are still coming to terms with what they witnessed from the country’s surprise run, which included a historic victory over Spain and the emergence of Russia’s leading goal scorer Denis Cheryshev.
Still, an aura of skepticism looms over Russian sporting achievements because of allegations that came to light before February’s Winter Olympics, including much evidence of a state-sponsored doping program. Cheryshev, a superstar in his own country at the moment, recently denied claims that he used a growth hormone before the World Cup began, according to The Telegraph.
The Telegraph reports that both FIFA, the international football governing body, and Russia have refused to state the number of drug tests the Russian players completed prior to the World Cup. Several players who are not members of the current team are still under investigation over possible drug offences.
Along with its sporting achievements, the Croatian team has offered other talking points through a number of controversies surrounding players, a coach, and the national football federation.
Balkan Insight reports on widespread outrage against the Croatian Football Federation for allowing corruption to thrive in the sport. The former federation executive director and a club official were recently convicted of stealing around 15 million euros out of Croatian football club Dinamo Zagreb, and aiding the non-payment of 1.8 million euros in taxes. Two of Croatia’s more prominent squad members, captain Luka Modric and Liverpool player Dejan Lovren, have been closely linked to the corruption charges and investigation.
Another contentious point has come from Daily Telegraph revelations that FIFA has been covering up offensive incidents from Croatian supporters, letting the Croatian Football Federation off with a warning for the display of “political/discriminatory banners” after a match with Nigeria, a disciplinary sanction considered too lenient.
More worryingly for Croatian fans, the federation sacked coaching assistant Ognjen Vukojevic after he posted a politically charged video on YouTube dedicating Croatia’s victory over Russia to Ukraine, where defender Domagoj Vida shouted “Glory to Ukraine,” a slogan widely used during the 2014 revolution that toppled the pro-Russian president, according to The Independent.
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