Many Russian soccer fans believe their underdog national team can pull off another upset when they take on Croatia in the World Cup quarter-finals later on Saturday, allowing them to stay in the tournament against the odds.
“I have always believed even though I understand our chances are small,” said Alexei Lomonosov, a Russian fan attending the game in the Black Sea resort of Sochi around 1,400 km (869.92 miles)south of Moscow.
The Russian team have pledged to do their utmost for the fans against Croatia.
“We promise to give it our all, to give everything and even more for a victory,” they wrote on Twitter. “Your support inspires us. You are the best fans in the world!”
Alexander Vorontsov, a fan from Samara who has shaved his head in the pattern of a soccer ball, said the tournament would leave a mark on sport in the country, but also on its people.
“I think that we will change our attitudes towards foreign guests (after the World Cup),” Vorontsov said. “We saw who they are in reality.”
The Croatians are enjoying their best World Cup since coming third at the tournament in France in 1998 and are aiming to keep the festivities going by beating Russia and booking a semi-final berth against either Sweden or England.
“We cannot choose our opponent, be they the hosts or somebody else. We are facing a huge game in the quarter-finals, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is,” coach Zlatko Dalic told reporters, adding he does not fear the partisan home crowd.
“Every week, our players play in front of full houses with opponent’s fans howling. This shouldn’t be a problem for us, and ultimately we should not be hoping to have any excuses.”
Croatia president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will again be in attendance as the interest in football reaches fever pitch.