Watching Croatia Watch Croatia

Even though it ended in heartbreak, Croats cheered loudly from every corner of the little country on the Adriatic Sea. See what it was like from the villages, cities, streets and even the campgrounds during the World Cup final.

One of the greatest things about the 2018 World Cup was the spontaneous nature of watch parties around the world. Beyond the official fan zones, impromptu gatherings for matches became beer-filled, emotional outlets for fans, but what was it like for the 4 million people of Croatia who watched their team go up against France in their first final?

Having gained its independence 27 years ago, Croatia is the second-smallest nation to make the World Cup final, behind only Uruguay. Even though the World Cup ended in heartbreak, Croats stood proudly by their national team and cheered loudly from every corner. Like, for example, the village of Sikirevci, more than 1,300 miles from Moscow. Star player Ivan Rakitic's family hails from Sikirevci, and one-quarter of the 2,000 inhabitants have the Rakitic surname.

Four photographers fanned out across the little country on the Adriatic Sea to the major cities, small towns, clubs and local sites to gain a peek inside how dedicated fans cheered for their national team during the 2018 World Cup final.

Tomo Galovic, 49, and his brother Duro Galovic, 47, prepare to watch the World Cup final in the courtyard of their home in Sikirevci. They were also celebrating Tomo's son's birthday. Ioana Moldovan

Sarah, who is half French and half Croatian, hums both national anthems in the moments before kickoff. Ino Zeljak

In Umag, a coastal city, Croatian kids prepare flags before Croatia take on France in the small nation's first final. Vladimir Zivojinovic

Ivan Kovacevic, 8 (right), plays football in front of his home in Sikirevci on Sunday wearing a Rakitic jersey. Ivan Rakitic, the Croatian midfielder, was born in Switzerland but pledged his international career to his parents' country of Croatia instead. Rakitic received the title of honorary citizen of Sikirevci. Ioana Moldovan

Ivan Lukic, 63, and his wife Marica, 58, in their car in the village of Sikirevci before the start of the World Cup final. Sikirevci is the home village of Ivan Rakitic's family, on his father's side. Luka Rakitic, Ivan's father, as well as his five brothers, also played football. Ioana Moldovan

Josip Benakovic drinks a coffee in Pandora Cafe Bar in Sikirevci, where he will watch the game. His favorite player is Dejan Lovren. Ioana Moldovan

Croatian supporters react during the World Cup final between Croatia and France in Umag. Vladimir Zivojinovic

In the capital city of Zagreb, an injured man makes his way toward a local pub where he will be watching the game. Fans are already cheering as they wait for the game to start. Ino Zeljak

Josip Matic and friends watch the final at the Lovacko Drustvo hunting association in Sikirevci. Ioana Moldovan

Fans line up at a table at the Lovacko Drustvo hunting association in Sikirevci, where animals decorate the walls. Ioana Moldovan

A group of German nudists watch the second half of the World Cup final at the Kovacine campground in Cres, Croatia. Imke Lass

Croatia fans stop along the side of the road outside of a local pub on Preradoviceva street in Zagreb. Ino Zeljak

Ivan Kovacevic, 8 (right), and Vito Jaric, 6, watch the first half of the World Cup final in Ivan's home in Sikirevci. Ivan cannot watch and turns away while Antoine Griezmann steps up to take a penalty shot. Ioana Moldovan

Bus drivers watching the game on their smartphones. Traffic throughout parts of the city seemed to literally stop during the match.Ino Zeljak

Fra Vito (Brother Vito), 45, right, a monk at the St. Francis Friary and Church in the city of Cres, watches the during the first half of the final in one of the libraries of the monastery. Fra Vito has arrived at the monastery a mere 2 1/2 weeks ago. He would have liked to go out and watch the game in a crowd but doesn't know many people on the island yet. He is in the company of Fra Ferdinand, 78, who has lived in the monastery for the past 25 years. Imke Lass

Volunteer firefighters watch the World Cup final in their building in Sikirevci that's under construction. There are 90 people volunteering as firefighters in this station; this year, they celebrated 90 years since the establishment of the volunteer force. Ioana Moldovan

Workers at a local bakery in Zagreb take a few minutes out of their schedule to watch Croatia play. Ino Zeljak

Fans in Umag sit in the street while they watch a game on a large screen across the street. Vladimir Zivojinovic

Ivan Lukic, 63, watches the World Cup final from his home in Sikirevci. Ioana Moldovan

The Ivosevic family celebrates a Croatia goal in the World Cup final. Vladimir Zivojinovic

Anne, Emmi and Pascal Lenz from Wuerzburg, Germany, watch the World Cup final at the Kovacine Campground in Cres, Croatia. Imke Lass

Croatia fans react as the game comes to a close and come to terms with the fact that they'll be finishing as runners-up. Vladimir Zivojinovic

Sikirevci's mayor, Josip Nikolic, 33, rides the fire truck across the village after the World Cup final. Firefighting volunteers say there is a tradition in Croatia for firefighters to sound the siren at the beginning and the end of the game, in honor of the national team. Ioana Moldovan

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