Croatia sack Ognjen Vukojevic ahead of World Cup semi-final clash with Englandby Jack Kitson / 10 July 2018, 10:24Tweet
Croatia’s preparations for their biggest match in 20 years have been thrown into turmoil after they sacked Zlatko Dalic’s coaching assistant Ognjen Vukojevic.
Vukojevic posted a pro-Ukraine video on Facebook (see below) in the aftermath of Croatia’s dramatic penalty shootout win over hosts Russia, which set up a semi-final clash against Gareth Southgate’s England.
The video, recorded alongside defender Domagoj Vida, showed the men controversially shout “Glory to Ukraine!” - a phrase used by Ukrainian anti-Russian nationalists - and “This victory is for Dynamo and Ukraine”, which in turn led to criticism from Russian politicians and a warning from FIFA.
But now the Croatian Football Federation (CFF) have decided to send Vukojevic home, although Vida has been spared:
“The Croatian Football Federation hereby notifies the public that Ognjen Vukojevic has been relieved of his duties as an associate of the coaching staff of the Croatian national team by decision of the management of the Croatian FA, and that he will no longer be a member of the Croatian delegation at the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
“The Croatian Football Federation (HNS) has decided to revoke Vukojevic's team accreditation at the FIFA World Cup and to relieve him of his duties as an observer for the Croatian national team.
“HNS hereby apologizes to the Russian public for the actions of a member of the Croatian delegation. Ognjen Vukojevic and Domagoj Vida likewise apologize for their statements, which were in no way intended to have political connotations, yet which unfortunately left room for such interpretations.”
Croatia head into the last-4 match at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium unbeaten in nine competitive matches. Boss Dalic, who a Croatian newspaper has described as "the most popular man in the country", has only lost two of his 12 games since taking over from Ante Cacic back in October, which were both friendly fixtures.
Croatia footballers say Vive Ukraine— English Russia (@EnglishRussia1) July 7, 2018
Say "this is victory for Ukraine" pic.twitter.com/AcsNxLZjme