First published by soccernews.com
As seismic sporting shocks go, Wednesday saw one of the biggest in years.
Roger Federer, tennis’ 20-time major-winning great, squandered a two-set lead and a match point to lose to Kevin Anderson in his Wimbledon quarter-final.
Federer’s upset was a preview to the main event, it turned out. At Luzhniki Stadium, Croatia looked finished, a spent force, heading forlornly for the weird, sullen occasion that is the World Cup’s third-place play-off. And although they were hardly playing tournament favourites in England, their fightback was worthy of sharing a day with Anderson’s extraordinary tale.
This was a first semi-final at any event for England since 1996; for Croatia, it was their first foray into the last four since the fabled team of World Cup 1998. They have never been to a final at all. History was always going to be made in Moscow, which is just the way a game of this magnitude should be.
This was Croatia’s best side since that Davor Suker vintage, a second ‘golden generation’ who humbled Argentina in the group stage, who battled from a goal down to see off Denmark and hosts Russia in the knockouts to reach this point. They have survived turmoil surrounding their Football Association, mounting expectations and two penalty shoot-outs. Theirs is an uncommon, unbreakable spirit.