Croatia Sack Coach, Vukojevic Ahead of World Cup Semifinal Match
The assistant coach of the Croatian national football team, Ognjen Vukojevic has been sacked for posting a politically-charged video to social media following the penalty shootout win over Russia, meaning he will not be among the Croatia backroom staff for Wednesday’s semifinal clash with England.
34-year-old Vukojevic, who is a former Croatia international, published a video in which he and defender, Domagoj Vida dedicated the dramatic win to Ukraine, prompting criticism from Russian supporters.
The clip showed Vida, who scored in extra time in the quarterfinal match against Russia, roaring “Glory to Ukraine!” while Vukojevic announced that “This victory is for Dynamo [Kiev] and Ukraine.”
“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,” a statement read.
“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.”
World football governing body, FIFA, issued a formal warning to Vukojevic regarding his behaviour and the former midfielder reacted to his dismissal by telling Russian newspaper Sport Express: “There’s no politics in football. It’s a joke for my friends from Dynamo Kiev. I love Russians and I love Ukrainians.”
Croatia, who advanced to the semi-finals of the ongoing World Cup, will face England on Wednesday, July 11, at 7:00pm (GMT+1). The winner will face the victor of the France vs Belgium encounter, scheduled for Tuesday, July 10.