July 15, 2018 / 1:41 PM / a month ago

Croatian leader hands Putin soccer shirt before World Cup final

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a Croatian soccer shirt with the name “Putin” printed on the back on Sunday, hours before Croatia play France in the World Cup final in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic attend a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia July 15, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS

Croatia has been caught up in soccer fever after the Balkan nation of 4.2 million people swept aside more fancied opponents to reach its first ever World Cup final, which Russia is hosting this year.

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Grabar-Kitarovic has, herself, entered into the spirit of the occasion, traveling to Russia to watch matches and dressing in the colors of the national flag. Croatia knocked Russia’s team out of the competition in the quarter-finals.

At a Kremlin meeting, Putin congratulated the Croatian president on the Croatian team’s performance.

“I’m sure we will see a beautiful game today,” he said. Grabar-Kitarovic thanked Putin for what she said was the successful organization of the competition.

Putin presented her with a bouquet of flowers, while she gave the Russian leader the Croatian national shirt.

Reporting by Olesya Astakhova; Writing by Christian Lowe

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