July 15, 2018 / 1:15 PM / 2 months 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.

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic arrives at the Alliance's headquarters ahead of the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Paul Hanna

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.

Grabar-Kitarovic has, herself, entered into the spirit of the occasion, travelling to Russia to watch matches and dressing in the colours 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 organisation 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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