In an outburst of national pride and joy, Croatia rolled out a red carpet and staged a euphoric heroes' welcome for the national team on Monday, 16 July, despite its loss to France in the World Cup final.
Hundreds of thousands of people wearing national red-and-white checkered colours and waving Croatian flags poured into the streets in the capital Zagreb to greet the team. Observers described the homecoming event as the biggest ever in Croatia.
The joyful, singing crowd crammed the central squares and the route where the players passed in an open bus, greeting fans and signing autographs.
"Thank you Croatia, thank you Zagreb!" captain Luka Modric, who won the Golden Ball after being voted the best player of the World Cup, told the crowd after the team finally arrived at the central square in the evening.
Police said more than 250,000 people came out in central Zagreb and many more along the route. The players' bus travelled for hours, often stopping when it was blocked by the crowds.
The players lined up to sing the national anthem with the packed square thundering in joy.
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Thousands of fans, many coming from other parts of the country, began arriving in the centre in the early morning and emergency medical services said they aided hundreds of fans who collapsed from exhaustion.