President Herv Kegal (at back) of the Croatian Cultural Society with young Benjamin Matic, second from left, and his brother Niko, at right, in the hall of St. Leopold Church on Gordon Head Road, where Croatian fans went crazy watching their soccer team defeat England 2-1 on Wednesday and advance to the World Cup final. Travis Paterson/News Staff

President Herv Kegal (at back) of the Croatian Cultural Society with young Benjamin Matic, second from left, and his brother Niko, at right, in the hall of St. Leopold Church on Gordon Head Road, where Croatian fans went crazy watching their soccer team defeat England 2-1 on Wednesday and advance to the World Cup final. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Saanich Croatian fans go wild as team reaches World Cup final

Croatian Canadians gather in the Croatian hall Gordon Head

Local Croatian fans will gather once more on Sunday as their national soccer team defeated England 2-1 in the World Cup semifinal on Wednesday.

France, which defeated Belgium 1-0 in the Tuesday semifinal, will face Croatia at 8 a.m. local time on Sunday in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

It’s Croatia’s first time reaching the final.

And you can bet there will be an even bigger crowd than the dozens who jammed the Croatian Cultural Centre hall on Wednesday of the Catholic Church St. Leopold Mandic, at 4081 Gordon Head Rd.

“I prayed when it was 1-1 that Croatia would win 2-1 in extra time,” said young Benjamin Matic, 10, was visiting from Vancouver.

Croatia scored the winning goal in the 109th minute by Mario Mandzukic.

Until then, the Gordon Head crowd were in a panic.

“It was stressful, I almost had a hard attack,” said Niko Zeba. “Benjamin told me before the game, we would win 2-1.”

reporter@saanichnews.com