France and Croatia’s journey to the World Cup final has gripped the two country’s natives, migrants and descendants living in the Hunter over the past four weeks and left them daring to dream of unrivaled glory.
The two sides did not lose a game in the pool-stage of the tournament and gave their fans plenty of reasons to believe along the way.
Charlene Bonneaud, a Frenchwoman from Normandy who has lived in Newcastle for the past four years, says she has watched each of France’s games.
“From the first game to now,” the 29-year-old said.
“I have three mates with whom I love spending time with watching the games. We are really cheering for the French team. My mum said to me [before the tournament] we will be in the final and well ... there we go.”
Ms Bonneaud believes France will get the chocolates on Monday and take home the FIFA World Cup Trophy for a second time.
A member of not-for-profit association Alliance Française de Newcastle, who promote the French language and culture in the Hunter, Ms Bonneaud says it will be “crazy” back in France should the nation win the match just a day after celebrating Bastille Day.
“The celebrations for the victory of the semi-final were huge,” she said. “So if we do win the final it will be crazy and amazing, definitely.”
Members of Alliance Française de Newcastle were planning on watching the match in Sydney to be with a larger French contingent.
For Croatia, the 2018 team has already gone where no Croatian side has gone before – a World Cup final.
Twenty years ago, when the tournament was held in France, it was the home nation who knocked Croatia out 2-1 in the semi-finals.
While France went on to win the tournament in 1998, Zeljko Dzambo of Eleebana is hoping the result will be reversed this time around.
Mr Dzambo, 37, who was born in Croatia but moved to Australia when he was 13, convinced his kids to jump on board his country of birth during the pool-stage matches and Lukas, 13, and Allira, 5, have been watching games with their “mad” football-loving father ever since.
“The funny part is my wife’s Canadian,” he said. “All wear Croatia shirts now.”
Mr Dzambo is predicting a Croatia win and says his relatives will join the family to watch the match.
“It’s going to be a long night for us,” he said. “We’ve got this [Croatian] beverage, Rakia, it’s like a shot. I think it’s about 40 per cent alcohol. I’ll make sure to have one of those when they win.”
He said he knew Croatia had the talent to make the final, but was amazed at how the team had come together “like no other side had”.
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