Fifa World Cup: After semi-final heartbreak, Croatian fan backs Messi to win World Cup

Argentina's resounding 3-0 win keeps hopes alive of winning third title

By Rituraj Borkakoty in Doha

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Photo by Rituraj Borkakoty
Photo by Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Fri 16 Dec 2022, 9:02 PM

Long after the final whistle was blown at the Lusail Iconic Stadium on Tuesday night, Karlo Pavličević looked on as hundreds of euphoric Argentinian fans danced and sang their team’s anthem, ‘Muchachos, ahora nos volvimo a ilusionar’ (Boys, we have our hopes up again).

Argentina’s resounding 3-0 win over Croatia kept their hopes alive of winning their third World Cup title and ended the Croats’ dream of winning their first.

But Croatian fan Karlo, who works in Canada, stayed back. And his face was a strange mix of heartbreak and admiration as the Argentinian fans, many of who spent their entire life savings for their Qatar trip amid a financial meltdown in the South American country, cried tears of joy.

“They must enjoy their moment. If we had won, I am sure some Argentinians would have stayed back to watch us celebrate,” Karlo responded when this reporter asked him how the Croatian fan in him could stay back after a heartbreaking defeat in a World Cup.

“It’s beautiful to see, it’s unfortunate that it’s not us today, it’s them. But four years ago, we were celebrating and they were crying. We beat them 3-0 last time (Russia 2018), and they beat us 3-0 this time. That’s football.”

Argentina’s semi-final against Croatia will also be remembered for Lionel Messi’s dexterity with the ball – how at the age of 35, the Argentine made the 20-year Josko Gvardiol, the best defender of this World Cup, look like an amateur with a mazy run for the third goal.

Karlo admitted that watching Messi live is different from watching him on the television.

“It’s something unique, you can’t feel that on TV. This is the third time I have seen Messi live, the first time was 10 years ago,” he said.

“His age, his getting older, it’s very nice to see him play like that. I am very happy I can see that.”

Karlo will also be happy if Messi goes on to win his first World Cup with Argentina on Sunday.

“I hope he can get the World Cup this time. As a Croatian fan, it was unfortunate that he did what he did against us. But if he has to win, let him go all the way now, since Croatia are out,” he said.

“Maybe, he deserves it. He has already earned all the recognition, so only thing left now is the World Cup. Look, Messi has made this far. I wish him good luck. It will be beautiful if he wins it.”

Karlo was only eight when Croatia experienced their first most beautiful moment in football in 1998, few years after the country’s independence, when the Davor Suker -inspired team reached the World Cup semifinal on the back of a stunning 3-0 win over Germany in the quarterfinals.

“I was a kid, I was celebrating. It was a magical moment,” he recalled.

“I remember my dad took me out to the streets to celebrate, beyond that, it is a very faint memory.”

The die-hard Croatian fan finally hoped that Luka Modric, the country’s ageing football icon, would continue for a few more years.

“I saw him go out (in the second half against Argentina), I had to give him a standing ovation. He was going out with 10 minutes to go. I knew this was his last World Cup,” Karlo said of the former Ballon d’Or winner.

“He absolutely deserved a standing ovation. He is 37, but if he keeps performing the way he is performing, then why not, he can play another Euro at least!”


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