France’s Antoine Griezmann celebrates at the end of the semifinal match between France and Belgium at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the St. Petersburg Stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Canadian soccer fans brace for World Cup final between France, Croatia

First ever final for the Croatians, while it’s France’s third, going into match as betting favourite

Soccer fans across Canada will be glued to their screens this morning as Croatia takes on France in the World Cup final in Moscow.

It’s the first ever final for the Croatians, while France is there for the third time and goes into the match as the betting favourite.

Canada, of course, did not have a team in this year’s tournament — or in any World Cup other than 1986, when it finished in last place and did not score a goal.

But soccer-mad Canadians have been following along with every goal, save and embellished foul of the tournament, and both finalists have their share of fans here.

The biggest concentration of diehard fans of the French side is likely in Montreal, where Statistics Canada estimates roughly 57,000 people who were born in France live.

For Croatia, it’s the Toronto area, which as many as 10,000 people whose first language is Croatian call home.

WATCH: Croatian fans rejoice over semi-final win

The Croatian Parish Park in Mississauga today is set to be packed with Croatian-Canadian fans, according to Ivan Kulis, who works for the Toronto Croatia Academy.

“Croatia isn’t a big country, but everyone follows the World Cup. Millions of people are going to watch the final all around the world,” he said.

“So for a small country like Croatia to be in the finals, it’s something very big in history.”

Although Croatia came third in the 1998 tournament — just seven years after the country declared independence from Yugoslavia — this is “one step bigger,” Kulis said.

Mississauga has a proud, tight-knit Croatian-Canadian community, said Erica Zlomislic, who works with the Croatian Heritage Association.

“I watch these games and I get teary-eyed,” she said. “When you’re under a foreign occupier, it toughens you. These guys are patriots.”

She said what makes this year’s team great is their leadership, faith and hard work along with their coach, Zlatko Dalic, who’s expertise has taken them a long way.

It’s by coincidence that today is the annual Croatian pilgrimage to the Martyr’s Shrine in Midland, Ont., about a two-hour drive north of Toronto. Zlomislic, 47, said she will be going to that before watching the game.

“We’ll just go and pray for the team,” she said. “Even if they get a silver, I don’t think people will be disappointed.”

“It’s good promotion for the country and the community, because we don’t have to explain who we are anymore.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Man killed in shooting at Abbotsford bank

Police believe incident on Thursday night to be targeted

Langley Township council hopefuls take part in Q&A

A Voter’s Guide to key election questions.

Vaudeville keeps senior actors young, active

The Vaudevillians ready to storm the stage with ‘As Time Goes By’

Online fundraiser to cover funeral costs of motorcyclist killed in collision

Larry Nizio, 37, died after crash with pickup truck Oct. 12 in Abbotsford

Free ‘hoops’ fun brings Aldergrove youths together

Aldergrove Basketball Club revives the sport at Aldergrove Secondary

Fashion Fridays: You can never have enough shoes

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

New interchange, work on Alex Fraser to make ‘easier commutes’ for Delta, province says

Bridge construction will restart next week, while the Highway 91 interchange was finished in August

Migrants, police mass in town on Guatemala-Mexico border

Many of the more than 2,000 Hondurans in a migrant caravan trying to wend its way to the United States left spontaneously with little more than the clothes on their backs and what they could quickly throw into backpacks.

5 to start your day

Man killed in shooting at Abbotsford bank, ex-Surrey cop to appear in court after Creep Catchers sting and more

Trump: ‘Severe’ consequences if Saudis murdered Khashoggi

Pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak on Wednesday said it had obtained audio recordings of the alleged killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Feds dead set against ‘ridiculous’ quotas to replace steel, aluminum tariffs

Donald Trump imposed the so-called Section 232 tariffs — 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum — back in June on national security grounds.

Campus brawl leads to charge against B.C. football player

Takudzwa Timothy Brandon Gandire, a 21-year-old defensive back from Vancouver, is charged with assault causing bodily harm.

Stadium vendor seen in pizza spitting video pleads guilty

The 21-year-old’s sentencing is Nov. 15. His lawyer has said he understood what he did was wrong and was remorseful.

Jury finds Calgary couple guilty in 2013 death of toddler son

Jeromie and Jennifer Clark were found guilty of criminal negligence causing death

Most Read