Russian Federation had delivered the ideal opening salvo, firing five goals past the Saudis in the World Cup opening match that instantly gave the home crowd a reason to turn their attention to football.
"He watched. He was rooting for the team".
"Another drama for us", said Real Madrid midfielder Modric. They took photographs of themselves with the crowd and unfurled a banner saying "we play for you". Ernst Happel of Austria led the Netherlands to the 1978 final, where it lost in extra time to Argentina.
"In four years' time in Qatar we will be better", Cherchesov added, referring to the next World Cup tournament. But unfortunately for them, talent will win out at this stage.
"Russia hasn't shown anything like this before".
"We've changed things on the penalties now, so it might be time we can change the scores against them".
We are giving our all.
"Thanks to the team for all the emotion and sleepless nights! I'm happy that I was part of this team, with this coach and this country for nearly 20 years", he added. "The teams who are hard-working, who are compact and united, these are the teams that are still here".
But their performances gave Russian players instant national hero's status and the country the right to be proud of a run no one had expected less than a month ago.
Chants of "Mo-lod-tsy" - an nearly untranslatable word of praise and thanks that roughly means "Good job, guys" - echoed across the dark streets of Moscow and other cities.
Russian Federation reached the quarter-finals for the first time since not playing as part of the Soviet Union, and the team exceeded expectations in knocking out Spain in the last round before running a much-fancied Croatia team incredibly close in Sochi. "But this goal will be hard to accomplish without you, so you should go to Qatar with us".
The Russians as hosts did not need to qualify for the World Cup and their ranking of 70 in the world was the lowest among all teams in Russia, even lower than global football minnows Saudi Arabia.
Croatia had also needed spot-kicks to get past a dogged Denmark in the last-16, but Modric insisted they would not be exhausted for the last-four clash against England at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday.
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