AS Croatia and England prepare to meet in the World Cup semi-finals, Vito Pauletic, a University of Worcester student who has returned home to Croatia for the summer, tells of the atmosphere in his hometown of Split.

WHEN the whistle signalled the start of Croatia’s first official Euros clash with England in the summer of 2004, I was just about tall enough to see the action through the roaring crowd of fans.

Estadio da Luz, in Lisbon, was packed as Beckham, Rooney, Lampard, and other legends dashed around in red, giving our team the definition of a hard time. 4-2, a decisive win, shattered our last hope of passing the group stage and my dad and I boarded our a flight back home with tears in our eyes.

Fast-forward 14 years and the unimaginable happens.

Croatia comes first in the group stage with three wins, then battles through a couple of nerve-wracking penalty shootouts to reach the semi-final; only this time it is the World Cup we’re talking about.

The whole country is in awe. The red-and-white checked flags grace countless homes and poke out of car windows. The never-ending honking wakes up even the deepest sleepers at night.

Even the tourists coming for a bit of sun and sea seem to have been caught up in the madness. They can feel it too. We want victory.

And, truth be told, this is our best shot at it.

With the swift wizardry of Luka Modric, piercing left foot of Ivan Perisic, and the unbreakable spirit of our national hero and a true gentleman Danijel Subasic on goal, the 10,000 Croats on the stands will be seeking a miracle.

I respect that England has been waiting to take it home for as long as football exists. With a squad of pressure-free, extremely talented young players, they are bound to give us trouble.

But I have a feeling the three lions will head home tonight with their tails down.