It’s a showdown of ultimate proportions for soccer supremacy at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The heavily favoured French will face off against the underdog Croatians in Sunday’s final.
While their team may be exhausted, outmatched and under-skilled, Croatian fans in Saskatoon are hoping one last game of vocal support can spur on the small Eastern European country to a storybook victory no one could have predicted.
“It’s huge. It’s massive. A lot of people don’t even know the country of Croatia, so it’s like we’re out there showing a little country can do it,” said Sandra Simicic, a lifelong Croatia supporter.
“The glory and the heart can sometimes do everything.”
For comparison, Simicic said Croatia winning the World Cup would be like the Roughriders winning three consecutive Grey Cups. Even for a team that has only won four Grey Cups in 108 years, that might be underplaying the implications of Croatia’s possible achievement.
Croatia reached the final of soccer’s biggest stage by winning their group to qualify as one of the final 16 teams. From there, Croatia beat Denmark and Russia in penalty kicks before knocking out England in the final half of extra time.
France had a much more favourable path to the final, winning each of it’s three knockout games (against Argentina, Uraquay and Belgium) without going to extra time.
It is Croatia’s first appearance in the finals after five attempts. France returns to the final for the third time in the past six World Cups.
Simicic knows this game means a lot not just to the people of Croatia, but it’s many immigrants across the globe.
“We’re thrilled, we have four generations of Croatians that are going to be watching the game,” she said of the national pride that will be on display Sunday.
Polychinka (thin, Eastern European crepe), Nutella and a variety of strudels will be on the menu for Simicic and her viewing party, reminding everyone that watching the game comfortably only happens with the proper spread.
“It’s just huge to have something to celebrate,” she said. “It’s not often you have something big to celebrate with your heritage.”
She also said people in Saskatoon will know if Croatia wins Sunday’s game.
“You’re going to hear horns honking, you’re going to see vehicles with flags,” she said.
“We’re a small community, but we’re loud and proud.”