Croatia will have 4.5m players in final: Rakitic

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In a league where a large majority of the players are imported from Europe and beyond, being a member of the England squad is no guarantee of first-team football.

In the Balkans, soccer is so political that it has created bitter divisions about Croatia's surprising success at the World Cup. "We're disappointed we didn't make the final but everyone has enjoyed the ride".

Croatia needed extra-time and penalties to beat both Denmark and Russian Federation, while Mario Mandzukic's extra-time victor gave them victory over England in the semi-final.

"We did talk to them [the players] about that before, but I think it was hard for them to really get it, majority weren't born in 1990 and they were too young for '96".

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"We are very proud of what we have done". The 32-year-old played only one match at the tournament and Southgate has made it clear he and his staff are already in the process of identifying his replacement. When Asia called I did not hesitate, I knew I would get to work with great players.

"I expect we'll be back in the top ten when the rankings come out".

But absent will be Croatia striker Nikola Kalinic, sent home in ignominy in the first week of the World Cup after refusing to come on as a substitute in the team's opening game against Nigeria.

England manager Gareth Southgate intends to be ruthless in his future squad selection, despite a hugely successful World Cup.

Credit PA
Credit PA

"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".

Football pundit Stan Collymore caused plenty of fuss at England's semi-final. "I think that we have seen at this World Cup that they did not rely on their talent alone", said coach Roberto Martinez, who now faces much expectation for the European Championship in 2020.

"But third place is a consolation for our supporters and a nice reward for us".

"There's a lot talked about relationships between our two countries, but on a personal level and mixing with the people of Russian Federation, we couldn't have been made more welcome", the England manager said.

"So the defeats have, I think, been hugely important for our development as well". It begins at the start of next season with England and Croatia finding themselves in the same group, alongside Spain.

"It has been a really nice journey, a really successful journey but in football you need to look forward and try to improve in the next opportunity that we have". "If they are not ready we have great players on the bench who are rearing to go".

"We're a bit outside the top five but competitive against those teams", he added.

"I have this feeling there will be hundreds of millions of people rooting for us on Sunday", he said.

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The messages were released through fictitious personas like DCLeaks and Guccifer 2 .0. Former President Barack Obama did so in 2013 after the Edward Snowden fracas.

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