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France Take On Croatia For World Champion Title; Trump Travels To Helsinki To Meet Putin Tomorrow; Croatia Star Luka Modric Up Amid Conflict; Protests In Helsinki Ahead Of Trumps Arrival; France Leads Croatia 2-1 In Tournament Final. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired July 15, 2018 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Lynda Kinkade in Atlanta filling in for Becky Anderson. We

have our Don Riddell with us as we kick off a very special CONNECT THE WORLD. World cup passion is reaching fever pitch as the final is getting

underway in Moscow. France is taking on the underdogs Croatia to do get out for the world champion title. Take a look at these pictures, the

scenes first in Paris, you can see there and also the group in Croatia as we speak, huge crowds with high hopes that gathered in both capitals to

root for their teams. We'll be getting two of those live fans on in just a moment. But first, to you Don, if this championship has taught us

anything, it is to expect the unexpected. Just set the scene. What can we expect today?

DON RIDDELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: Well, who knows? Who knows? I mean, it has been just an extraordinary tournament. There is really a

shame that it is coming to an end but we do hope these two teams can send us off with a brilliant finale. They certainly have the capability of

doing so. They're both very, very exciting teams in different ways. I can tell you that the game has just kicked off in the last minute. Both teams

have named unchanged line-ups from their semi-final victories and there are some key players that we can certainly look at. Guys like Kylian Mbappe

who has really had actually phenomenal tournament for France. He's only 19 years told, N'Golo Kante also in the midfield, a guy who's played very,

very well. This is a team, of course, France playing in the World Cup Finals for the third time in 20 years. The won the final in it in '98, the

go to the finals '06 and of course, they wanted to repeat that. Croatia, a completely different story. This is a team that has never been to the

World Cup Final.

It is the smallest country to get to the final since 1950. There are just under 4 million people in Croatia. This has been a fantastic story for

them. And the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic in mid-field I think will be key for them. So a lot of people are saying France are the favorites

because of the players they have, they're young. People would give Croatia or give them a chance because some of their players with very, very

experienced. They have multiple (INAUDIBLE) in their team. But the problem with Croatia is they've had to do things the hard way. They had to

play effectively one game more to get to this point because their three knock out games so far have all gone to extra time. Their players are

slightly older and more mature. Does that mean they'll feel it more? We will soon see. The Croatian players don't like being told that they're

tired and that they're past it. And they used that actually as motivation in the game against England so --

KINKADE: Who wants to be told that anyway?

RIDDELL: Absolutely right. But I do think that this hopefully will be a great game.

KINKADE: Are you rooting for the underdog?

RIDDELL: I'm not really -- I mean, this is the team that beat my team, England, right, so I'm not sure I'm rooting for them. I think I would be

happy for either team. I think the better story would be if Croatia wins but there will be unbelievable scenes in both countries if -- whichever

team wins. I mean, we remember France in '98 and those extraordinary scenes on (INAUDIBLE). I think it will be something very, very similar in

Paris if they do it tonight. I remember, they were in the final of the European championship years ago and they blew it against Portugal. They

would not want to do that again. A lot would depend on their manager Didier Deschamps. He has tremendous plays at his disposal but he's accused

of being overly conservative at time and not letting his players off the leash. And I think it will be interesting to see how they go about this

game knowing that Croatia have so much experience on the other side.

KINKADE: Absolutely. Don Riddell, stand by with us. Thanks so much. We kind of can't overstate how excited the French and Croatian fans are right

now. Crowds have gathered en masse in each of those countries to watch the World Cup final. Let's get out to Melissa Bell, she's in a fan zone in

Paris and Oren Liebermann is among Croatian supporters. First to Melissa, obviously France the favorite to win here, talk to us about the pressure

and how fans are feeling now.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Huge pressure of course for the France team precisely because they go in to this match as the favorites and there

is all the excitement of the fans. As you were just saying a moment ago there, Lynda, it's been 20 years since France won the world cup, and it had

been such a significant moment. It was about so much more than football. Of course the current team, most of them can't remember because some of

them weren't even born. And that is true, also, of the fans who gathered here in this extraordinary heat. A lot of people have come out here to the

foot of the Eiffel Tower to watch on this giant screen despite the heat, despite the sunshine. They've been out there for hours.

Of course, the match has just begun so they'll be out there for a little longer but you can see they're watching the big screen with a great deal of

excitement, a great deal of anxiety. They know -- they've been about how extraordinary that moment was 20 years ago in 1998 for those who aren't old

enough to remember it and they want a little taste of it again. We had a little taste of it on the night of the semi-finals. France, Paris

specifically really had a taste of that celebration and that sort of sense of a country uniting around the victory. And this time they feel they

might just once again 20 years on get through to the finals. Once this is over, once this match is over, and if France wins, this crowd, some 100,000

strong, will make their way with the rest of Paris to the (INAUDIBLE) and it will be one giant celebration, Lynda.

[11:05:54] KINKADE: Yes, 20 years since the last one as you say incredible turnout there. I want to go to Oren Liebermann now in Zagreb, Croatia.

Just to get the feeling there because this is obviously a tiny country only four million people in Croatia. That's certainly a lot riding on this game

today.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is. All of these fans here know that the word "underdog" has been applied to the Croatia squad over and

over again. It's a position they have come to (INAUDIBLE). They're underdogs -- (INAUDIBLE) They're ready for the world to essentially

battling against (INAUDIBLE) but they're also ready to win. When we asked them what gives you such hope that you have chance against a bigger, better

perhaps France team, they all tell you the same answer. It's their heart, their determination, its grit per (INAUDIBLE) Croatian squad including the

fact that Luka Modric

KINKADE: Yes, no doubt. They have certainly shocked a lot of people throughout this world cup winning game after game, winning every game up to

today. Take us through what the celebrations will be like should they win this world cup.

LIEBERMANN: Unbelievable. Look, this has just starting here and the party started a long time ago. At least some of this crowd here I've seen

celebrating on the (INAUDIBLE). And this has spread all night into tomorrow. Many of the shops were close today. Many of the business has

already businesses already planning on being closed tomorrow when the team returns home. There are also celebration from their hometown of the some

of the players. Luka Modric and some of the other players they have their own celebrations back there. This would be a multi-day party when the

square when the squad comes back in Croatia.

KINKADE: Thanks Oren. I want to go back to Melissa. Obviously, there are always players that have stand up in any team and it sounds like France is

hitting its hops on its star forward, a boy from a ghetto.

BELL: That's right. I mean, this is an extraordinary team and it had been so long, Lynda, since a French side had looked at this strong. And it

isn't simply that they're strong, Didier Deschamps their coach has really managed to achieve a sort of level of cohesion within the team that the

France side hadn't known 20 years that you have all these extraordinarily young and talented players. Kylian Mbappe, of course, is that man that

everyone thinks of. I mean, his name is emblazoned on most of the t-shirts on the people in that fan zone beside -- behind me. He is proven such an

extraordinary talent. Nothing today is (INAUDIBLE) have we seen a teenager do this well in a World Cup so he has extraordinary talent.

And of course, there are the others (INAUDIBLE), so many names that are already near-mythical really within the world of football. I mean, France

has there of the five most expensive players in the world on its side. And this felt therefore that this is the side that really has the best shot

throughout this for doing it. The fact that they made it to the final really shows that there was some (INAUDIBLE). And of course, Didier

Deschamps, this is a man of course, who played on that winning side in 1998. Now he is the coach of the side that hopes to bring the World Cup

back to Paris. If he does it, it will even an extraordinary achievement for him. Lynda?

[11:10:12] KINKADE: Yes, absolutely extraordinary. We will come back to you both very shortly. Melissa Bell in Paris, Oren Liebermann in Zagreb,

thank you both very much. And of course, I want to thank our Don Riddell for his insight setting up the show. We will come back to you again very

soon. Thanks so much. We'll still to come here on CNN, while Russian President Vladimir Putin enjoys the World Cup final, Donald Trump you can

see that some live pictures he is on Air Force One about to leave Scotland for Helsinki in Finland for their summit tomorrow. Will Russian election

meddling be on the table? Stay with us, we'll have live reports just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KINKADE: We are looking at some live pictures there, Air Force One taking off that happened just moments ago. President Trump leaving Scotland where

he's headed for Finland where he meets with the Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday for that highly anticipated but quite controversial summit.

Well, of course, there have been many protests underway in Helsinki just even before the President arrives. He is expected to land there in just a

few hours. And as I say that much-anticipated meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin just a day away now, one major issue hanging over

that meeting, Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. That is of course after the U.S. on Friday indicted 12 Russian intelligence

officers by hacking the Democrats. President Trump says he will bring that up at that meeting but as our Nic Robertson reports there is much more at

stake.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Setting off for Europe, Donald Trump relishing his long-anticipated summit with Vladimir

Putin.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have NATO, I have the UK which is in somewhat turmoil and I have Putin. Frankly Putin may be the

easiest of them all, who would think.

ROBERTSON: From their first face-to-face last year at the G20 in Hamburg, Trump is thought to shroud his conversation with Putin in secrecy rejecting

a skilled team of staff customary for such critical meetings taking only then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson into his first encounter planned for

45 minutes laughing over two hours.

REX TILLERSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATES, UNITED STATES: There was a very clear positive chemistry between the two.

ROBERTSON: But on the vexed question of Russian election meddling --

TILLERSON: The President at this point, he pressed him and then you know felt like at this point let's talk about how do we go forward.

ROBERTSON: Later at a formal dinner ditching protocol meeting alone with Putin for about an hour where they did agree on Putin's proposal for a

ceasefire in southwest Syria.

TILLERSON: I think all of you have seen some of the news that just broke regarding -- and as -- a de-escalation agreement.

ROBERTSON: But as recently as last week Putin's forces were breaking that ceasefire as they have many times since that Hamburg meeting. Syria

expected to be on the agenda in Helsinki along with meddling in the U.S. elections and Ukraine. The question is will Trump face down Russia's naked

aggression or fall for more of Putin's platitudes and maybe look for a grand bargain. Russia to help Trump isolate Iran oust Iranian forces from

Syria in return for easing sanctions imposed on Russia for breaking international law invading Ukraine, illegally annexing Crimea.

TRUMP: That was on Barack Obama's watch, that was not on Trump's watch. Would I have allowed it to happen? No, I would not have allowed it to

happen. But he did allow to happen.

ROBERTSON: Worryingly for his allies, Trump plans to meet the former KGB spy Putin alone before bringing in advisors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would very much hope that Presidents Trump will deliver a very strong message President Putin that there are things that

are not acceptable.

ROBERTSON: At NATO at the beginning of his Europe trip Trump was on the offensive.

TRUMP: Germany is a captive of Russia's because they supply -- they get rid of their coal plants, they got rid of their nuclear, they're getting so

much of the oil and gas from Russia.

ROBERTSON: Putin had almost a week waiting, wondering will he get confrontation or compromise.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KINKADE: Well, joining me live from Helsinki CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson and Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance.

Good to have you both with us. Nic, I want to start with you first. There's obviously a great deal of concern about how this one-on-one between

President Putin and President Trump will go. What is the U.S. President saying about what he hopes to achieve?

ROBERTSON: You know, when he set out on this trip to Europe at the beginning of the week she said that he thought it would have a tough time

at NATO, that it will be a tough time in the U.K. and that he'd have an easier time with President Putin. And I think at the beginning of the week

people sort of scratch their heads and said what does he mean by that. But we've seen him going tough at NATO, we saw him going very tough in the U.K.

as well so I think the indication there for his allies in Europe who are watching him is that he expected at the beginning of the week and may well

still be expecting to give President Putin an easier time. He's indicated that is not going to put -- that he is going to raise the issue of meddling

in the U.S. elections, he's not going to push him hard on those. Those are the indications he's given. He's played down expectations that there will

-- that may be some great significant outcome of this summit but interestingly he's been criticizing again his allies, his NATO allies in

Europe. This is what he said about the E.U.

KINKADE: And Nic, give us a sense of whether you think President Trump will actually hold President Putin accountable, whether he will actually

say you lied to me, we've got the evidence that your intelligence officers hacked our election.

ROBERTSON: He's only got the ammunition for it with that indictment, you know, the indictment that came down Friday. Perhaps he wasn't expecting

when he left Washington last week. Maybe he wasn't expecting to have that -- have that in his hand. He heard -- he will have heard of course as we

all did in a public statement from his Secretary of Homeland Security on Saturday saying that she believes that there is Russian meddling in the

current election so President Trump has the information available, some evidence that present that he didn't have when he confronted President

Putin about this a year ago in Hamburg. And he has perhaps the motivation for it because there's an indication Russia continues in this meddling,

that certainly the view from the U.S. Intelligence Community at the moment.

But again, every indication President Trump has given is there is not going to go in hard on this issue. He will raise the issue. He said you know,

when it comes to president -- when it comes to President Putin that he'll say did you do it, don't do it again and President Putin will deny it. And

I think there isn't anyone at the moment who would expect President Putin to put up his hand and admit it but there is the hope from a lot of people

in the Intelligence Community, in Europe and of course in the United States who would hope that the President Trump will take a tough line on this

issue of meddling in the elections of the U.S. elections because it doesn't just affect the United States, it's been meddling by Russia in European

elections too, in the elections of the United States allies.

KINKADE: Yes, that is a good point you make. Nic Robertson thanks so much in Helsinki. I just -- before I go to Matthew Chance, I just want to

update you on the World Cup Finals France versus Croatia. The first goal has been scored to France. The current score is one-nil and we will

continue to update you throughout this hour. But I want to go back to Matthew chance now for more on that Trump-Putin summit. And Matthew,

President Trump has always said that he's wanted a good relationship with Russia and there's no doubt that he despises the Russia investigation into

meddling in the U.S. election. I just want to play some sound from the U.S. Presidents on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think that we're being hurt very badly by the -- I would call it the witch-hunt, I would call it the rigged witch hunt after watching some

of the little clips. I didn't get to watch too much because I'm here it's a different time zone to put it mildly. But after watching the people,

that man that was testifying yesterday, I call it the rigged witch hunt. I think that really hurts our country and it really hurts our relationship

with Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KINKADE: The rigged witch hunt. That is what the U.S. President was calling it and that comment was made after he knew the 12 Russian spies

were being charged with hacking the U.S. election. Will that be music to Putin's ears?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it will I think those kinds of statements that we heard from President Trump really

since when he was a candidate has given the Kremlin an enormous hope that the -- that the situation in its relationship with the United States under

Donald Trump may be a lot better. Of course, they've been thwarted in ambition so far. But you know, you have to remember as well that Russians

use exactly the same language. They've adopted Trump's phraseology when it comes to describing the allegations against them. They also say they

things. They've also called the allegations that they meddled in the U.S. election a witch-hunt and they've also said it's politically motivated.

It's put it back by and those who are opposed to Russia and opposed to Donald Trump in order to discredit them and to prevent them from a forging

a better relationship.

And so even though there's all this talk at the moment and urging of President trucks are going to this meeting tomorrow in Helsinki and be much

more confrontational Vladimir Putin because he's got that evidence at his fingertips, the chances are this is something that they're actually going

to agree about, they could actually gone over this shared belief that this is a witch hunt and it's politically motivated. So I think expectations

are pretty low amongst people who are observing the situation closely that there's going to be a fallout between the two Presidents all this

particular issue were augmented.

KINKADE: In the lead-up to this summit, we've seen President Trump playing a lot of golf in Scotland. What sort of preparation would President Putin

be doing in the lead-up to this? President Putin, of course, is being in his position in -- as a leader for more than 18 years.

CHANCE: Yes, well, I mean, the immediate run-up for this, of course, President Putin will be no standing astride the global sporting stage

watching the World Cup final being played in the capital of his country in Moscow. And so we stepping virtually from the Luzhniki stadium in the

center of Moscow onto a plane to meet the U.S. President, but undoubtedly before that meeting, Vladimir Putin work at a number of times is an

extremely careful preparer when it comes to these kinds of meetings. He's got an incredible mastery of the facts before he goes to any sort of news

conference or any kind of meeting with a foreign leader. And I think the expectation is that he's going to be very, very well prepared indeed to

have this meeting with President Trump of the United States.

He said that, the fact that the meeting is taking place at all is already being seen politically as a victory by the Kremlin. Remember, they have

been isolated by the international community, they've been isolated by the United States and sanctioned by the United States. And without changing

any of their behavior they have managed to secure this one-on-one summit in Helsinki with the Presidents of the United States so that's a political

victory in itself. They're also going to be looking for any concessions that President Trump may make. He's already hinted that he could make

certain concessions over military exercises in the Baltics and I think Russians will take whatever they could (INAUDIBLE)

[11:25:08] KINKADE: We all will be following this very closely. Good to have you with us Matthew Chance and Nic Robertson joining us both from

Helsinki, thanks so much. Well for more stories around that meeting, you can head to our website. You can read my colleague Stephen Collins take on

how the charges of the Russian meddling will affect the Helsinki talks. That can be found at CNN.com. well, the clash for the cup is well

underway. I have more on how France, Croatia, and their fans faring in the final after the break Croatia hoping for a break as they are down one-nil.

(INAUDIBLE) next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KINKADE: Hi, I'm Linda Kincade. Welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm filling in in Atlanta for Becky Anderson and we are following the world cup

very closely France versus Croatia. The score right now 1-0. The French were the first took score in the 18th minute and we've got all the details.

Joining us on set is our Don Riddell. Don take us first through that first goal which you say was quite controversial by the French.

[11:29:53] RIDDELL: Yes, we can talk about that amazing scenes here coming out of Croatia having just equalized in literally in the last couple of

minutes, Linda. Croatia made a terrific start to this game. They were doing all the running. They were much more energized at the start and

really the opening goal in 18 minutes came against the running play and it was also controversial.

Antoine Griezmann, winning a free kick in a very dangerous position. He went to ground very easily, it looked as though, he was very creative,

shall we say. It doesn't look as though he was touched as he went to ground, but the referee gave a free kick. Griezmann took it and it

actually went in off the head off the Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic. So, an own goal for the French lead the first own goal we've ever seen in a

World Cup final, and yet another set piece at this tournament.

But, within just the last couple of minutes on a Croatia's most dangerous players, Ivan Perisic, has scored a very, very well-taken goal. The French

team just could not clear the danger in the area, the balls pinging around, and it fell to Perisic, and he scored a terrific goal. And so, game on

now. And incredible scenes in the span zones.

Of course, remember, Croatia playing in the World Cup final at the very first time, a country of just over 4 million people. One of the smallest

countries ever gets to the World Cup final. And of course, this for them is a moment of intense national pride.

Remember they'd only been a country since the early 1990s. They've never got this far in the World Cup. They did get to the semi-final in France in

1998, by the way. And of course, lost to the French. So this for them is unfinished business, and what a day this is going to be, Lynda, finding a

carry on.

KINKADE: Yes.

RIDDELL: They certainly deserve to still be in this game.

KINKADE: Certainly, a very exciting game. Just half an hour in 1-1. I want to go to the stand zones. Certainly, but that is in the Croatian

capital, Zagreb. And Melissa Bell is in Paris. Oren, first to you. Take us through the reaction when Croatia scored just moments ago.

LIEBERMANN: A lot of reaction still happening here behind going step out of the way here. Resuming in just a moment as you can still see some of

the (INAUDIBLE) smoke, and all the fireworks, all the firecrackers that were set off, but it was a haze of white blended blue smoke the moment

where they just scored that goal to equalize.

Sure there was some disappointment. Certainly, some disappointment, we mention scored to own goal putting France up, 1-0. And it was a moment of

silence here. But keep in mind, Croatia has flavored behind in every single elimination game, and this one is no different offense, new walk

away (INAUDIBLE) off against. Absolutely, the team knew what they off against, as well. And it was predecessor came back just a few minutes

later.

And you can still hear those crowds cheering, its predecessor came back just a few minutes later to equalize. This is a team that has shown that

determination and grit throughout and one more time here.

Certainly, there's a lot of this World Cup final here to go, but you can hear the excitement in this crowd. You can feel the excitement here as

they set up more fireworks, more firecrackers. They're fired up for the rest of this game. They're watching, their interest, so is this whole

country is not just here and so good. I have no doubt, my friends who at the bench and other places that there are celebrations throughout now as

this game continues here.

KINKADE: Yes, and absolutely amazing. I want to go to Melissa. Firstly, France, of course, scoring in the first 18 minutes of this game. Take us

through that reaction and how are they feeling now that Croatia has equalized them?

BELL: Well, clearly, when that own goal was scored by Croatia, huge excitement here in the fan zone. They couldn't quite believe that, that

early on they found themselves won the locker now.

You couldn't quite hear a pin drop out there, but it's going to also local fighters since Croatia equalized 1-1. This is an extremely nervous crowd

now because they're looking at that big screen and then they're seeing the Croatian side look extremely strong.

I'm joined by one fan, Benjamin, who's one of the hundred thousand people who come here to the fan zone to watch. Just tell us a little bit about

what these means for France.

BENJAMIN, FAN OF LES BLEUS: This means a lot. I mean, we are all here, I haven't seen this kind of crowd since I can remember when. And I think

that everyone is seeing like me right now, overjoyed, overexcited, and our hearts and prayers are just going to explode before the ends. We just

wanted to come back home so, so badly, so we need it.

BELL: So, if France failed to score again, or if it losses, tell us a little bit about the sense of disappointment that will be felt by crowd.

BENJAMIN: I don't need -- I mean, what we care about is just to win. We don't want to think about losing. We just hope so bad that we will win as

soon. And the mark, at least, feels our goals to be just relaxed before the ends.

BELL: Benjamin, thank you so much. So, you can hear there, Lynda, there is so much tension here, so much excitement, so much riding on this. The

whole of France is watching this young team that has done so exceptionally well. And they really want them to win apparently.

France is managing to come back and to score again. So, clearly, these fans are watching very carefully. But again, Lynda, so much tension herein

the air as France watches the sights and to pray that for the first time in 20 years, the World Cup will be brought back to power.

[11:35:26] KINKADE: We will stay, certainly and exciting at first 30 minutes. Melissa Bell, thanks so much.

I want to go back to Oren. Talk to us about Croatia's star player. The Croatia's captain who has a rather complex story.

Can you hear us, Oren?

LIEBERMANN: Well, I just lost the I.P. there at the moment there, I'm back with you. One of the things we talk about over and over again as we talk

about the Croatia team is the determination and grit. Where is that come from?

Well, many players in the Croatia side (INAUDIBLE) war. Refugees involved in the early 1990s. We went to the hometown of some of this players.

Modric, in particular. Luka Modric, the Croatia star, to find out what it is about in his upbringing that brought him new areas today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LIEBERMANN: The name of Croatia's soccer star is on the signs here. But Luka Modric's family hasn't called this place home in 20 years. In the

foothills of Velebit Mountain, this is where the young Luka spent his earliest years. His childhood home long since abandoned, surrounded by

minefields that speak to the area's violent past.

In the Balkan Wars in the early 1990s, Serbian militiamen killed Modric's grandfather. Modric's father fought for the Croatian army. The fighting

killed thousands and displace many more. The family fled the violence with six-year-old, Luka.

The Modric family made their way to Zadar, a coastal town that shows little evidence of the mortar attacks that were so common here. Luka's family

found a home in this refugee hotel where he grew up with other children of war.

DANILO PAUNOVIC, CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF LUKA MODRIC (through translator): We had practically nothing. We only had a ball, which we had to buy

ourselves. We had a playground full of mortars. When the general alarm went off, we had to hide in the basement. So, we lost our youth.

LIEBERMANN: Robbed of his childhood Modric found strength in sport. The local team soon noticed Modric. His first trainer, Josef Bepobailo, saw

the determination that would define him. Playing on a team with other children of war, Modric always stood out.

JOSEF BEPOBAILO, FIRST TRAINER OF LUKA MODRIC: Luka was hyperactive and he immediately stood out in front of his whole generation as a young football

player his father. His father told me that he even slept with his football.

SVETKO USTIC, CEO MODRIC'S YOUTH TEAM (through translator): Luka Modric, (INAUDIBLE)

LIEBERMANN: Many of those who played with Modric had also fled the violence.

USTIC: (INAUDIBLE)

LIEBERMANN: Svetco Ustic, the CEO of Modric's youth team, says the fighting didn't ruin the children, it strengthened them.

USTIC: Luka was always full of joy, full of life. He always asked for one more success. He never liked to lose, he always wanted to win, and inside

of him, he always had the character of a winner.

Modric's skills and his ability to strike from a distance have taken him all the way to the Champions League in Real Madrid. A star on soccer's

biggest stage.

LIEBERMANN: If Modric has escaped the shadow of war, there is another shadow that now hangs over the Croatian star. Modric is involved in a

corruption case centered around the owner of his old team.

Prosecutors haven't named him as a defendant but local media has identified Modric in a case in which he has been charged with perjury. Prosecutors

say Modric lied about the signing of part of his contract. The team owner at the time, Zdravko Mamic, was convicted of fraud and fled the country.

Modric took heat for testifying against Mamic, then, changing that testimony. It's a charge that could theoretically send Modric to prison

for years. But reportedly, a court has not yet approved the indictment. One more win in this World Cup, a victory in the finals would go a long way

to quelling that still lingering anger over the corruption scandal.

Croatia celebrated when the team made it to the championship game. Modric, the star midfielder led the way as team captain for Croatia, a country of 4

million people with one final challenge ahead.

From the worn down pitch of his youth to the world's biggest stage, Modric is as unafraid of the long shot as he has always been.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIEBERMANN: It looks like Croatian is very well be calling on Modric by some major players to come back again during that (INAUDIBLE) has scored on

apparently when now up to runs. And once again, Croatia will have to confront the (INAUDIBLE) remains into its -- certainly, that was a moment

of silence here (INAUDIBLE) line up 2-1, but there is plenty of football left and we keep the post on the crowd. And team, the home country,

Croatia is doing on hee in Zagreb. Lynda.

[11:40:10] KINKADE: Oren Liebermann, thanks so much for that. And I just want to update our viewers on the game right now. It is 2-1, France has

just scored another goal. A penalty shot, you can see the reaction there from Paris around Melissa Bell as an incredible scene there. Certainly, a

lot of excitement, Melissa?

BELL: A huge amount of excitement, Lynda. And what we've seen -- I really -- we had that moment of excitement earlier when we thought France had

scored. In fact, no. It had won its penalty kick and that is what Antoine Griezmann has just scored with 2-1, then, huge excitement here, really.

Despite the strength of the Croatian team, France is looking really good and these fans are really on the edge of their seats as extraordinary

amount of tension in the extraordinary game. We've already had three goals in just a short amount of time.

And two extremely strong stars taking each other on with so much riding on this (INAUDIBLE) before. We never seen an own goal in a World Cup final

before. That's the kind of match as it is. And really, for these fans who been out here in the blazing sun for so many hours, for some of the minutes

just all too much.

Huge amount of tension, great anxiety here in Paris. But 2-1 up, France is really hoping it's going to do it. Lynda.

KINKADE: Absolutely, extraordinary. Melissa Bell, for us in Paris. Thanks so much.

Well, we're going to take a quick break. But still, to come, Donald Trump is on his way to Helsinki. Where he'll face to face with the Russian

president as new evidence of Russian election meddling hangs over the summit. We'll have the latest from Finland, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KINKADE: Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Lynda Kinkade in Atlanta, filling in for Becky Anderson.

Well, the U.S. president is currently on his way to Helsinki. In less than 24 hours, Donald Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at

Finland's Presidential Palace. The stakes are high especially, after new charges in the Russia investigation meddling were laid against 12 Russian

spies.

Meanwhile, thousands of people have taken to the streets of Helsinki to protest the policies of both the U.S. and Russian presidents. CNN's

Frederik Pleitgen has more from inside those demonstrations.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi Lynda. Yes, it's a decent crowd that turned out here. It certainly, is a very peaceful

crowd. If we look around a little bit, you can see that the folks here that are very colorful. You can see, for instance, there is someone

dressed as the earth, with I think what is a Russian eagle and an American eagle on her head.

But the people here, obviously, have a very strong and very serious political message to these two leaders. They're saying, look, on the one

hand, of course, you can come here to Helsinki, but we don't like your politics.

And if you look at the groups that are represented here its human rights groups. Obviously, protesting the human rights policies of both Russia and

the United States. As for instance, also a lot of environmental groups protesting against President Trump's environmental policies like for

instance, leaving the Paris Climate, of course.

Now, on the other side, you also have a lot of Ukrainian groups that are protesting Russia's actions in Ukraine. But again, all of this is

happening in a very, very peaceful, a very colorful atmosphere. You have a lot of people with musical acts and things similar to that. So, it

certainly is a protest that wants to get the attention of these two leaders, but at the same time make sure that they get their message across

in a peaceful way. Lynda.

[11:45:43] KINKADE: Thanks to Frederik Pleitgen, there. Well, CNN has learned that Mr. Trump has spent the last 48 hours preparing for the

upcoming summit, speaking with advisors both in Scotland and back in Washington. Our Kaitlan Collins joins us now from Helsinki.

I want you to take us through the preparations, but also I want to ask about whether President Trump will hold Vladimir Putin accountable? Given

those charges against the 12 Russian intelligence officials that were laid on Friday, I just want to go to a little bit of sound from President Trump.

Just take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I hadn't thought of that. But it certainly, I'll be asking about it. But again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing

whatever it was during the Obama administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KINKADE: He was asked there about whether he will request the extradition of the 12 Russian spies. He's responds, is he hadn't thought about it. Is

that surprising and what do you make of the fact that he has again simply put the blame on the previous administration?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is surprising, Lynda. And it's not likely that would happen even if the President did ask

it, but do people -- do believe it? If he did ask, it would at least signal that he is taking this very seriously. Instead, we're seeing quite

the opposite from the president, he has not issued a critical statement about those indictments since they were announced two days ago.

Instead, his most critical statements and responses to that has only been critical of the Obama administration, noting that happened when they were

in office not when he was in office. And said nothing about those 12 Russian intelligence officers who attacked an American election. And

instead, the president is putting the focus on Obama.

Now, he has spent the last two days at his Golf Course in Scotland preparing for this meeting with his aides and advisers going over the

upcoming preparations ahead of this summit. But still, we have not seen anything from the president about Vladimir Putin himself or these Russian

officials which is concerning to now just the president's critics there are a lot of experts back in Washington, as well, who fear when the president

sits down with Putin here on Monday in Helsinki is going to be a very friendly discussion and not the dressing gown that they believe that

Russians and Vladimir Putin deserve in response to attacking the American election.

KINKADE: Yes, certainly not. All right, Kaitlan Collins, great to have you with us from Helsinki. Thanks so much. We'll talk to you again soon,

no doubt, thanks.

Well, the fiery first half is wrapping up at the World Cup in Moscow. We'll break down which stars are striking, which are stalling, you can see

those scenes live from Croatia, a fan zone. Right now, Croatia is trailing at France in the final, score 2-1.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:50:34] KINKADE: Welcome back. Well, we have just headed into halftime in the 2018 World Cup final between France and Croatia. France, leading

Croatia 2-1 in Moscow. The French took the lead in the 18th minute. Thanks to an own goal by Croatia, 10 minutes later though, Ivan Perisic,

that was then, able to equalize with a half-volley from the edge of the goal area.

And 10 minutes after that, France scored a penalty goal. So the score right now, 2-1. Well, let's go back out to Melissa Bell in Paris, Oren

Liebermann in Zagreb. And first, let's just take us through the feeling where you are, Melissa with the score up right now 2-1.

BELL: Well, halftime has just begun, Lynda, and clearly here in France, the fact that they are 2-1 off, as lead. Less I'm very excited, very

hopeful, it's been quite a first half with me as Jeremy want to love 100,000 fans that are here. Tell me, how it felt? How it's been to watch

as a France fan?

BENJAMIN: Oh my God, it's so tracing because actually, the Croatian are very good. I think we can win but I was so stressful during all this first

period. And I can't believe we already have two goals. I'm very stressful.

BELL: A very exciting match and two very strong sides. What's going to happen? How are you feeling?

BENJAMIN: I hope we will have a goal for us very soon at the -- at the beginning of the second period. I hope this because we have to because

they are very strong, and I'm sorry, I'm very excited.

BELL: Lots of excitement as you can see, and an awful lot of way there on the shoulders of France as they come back in for the second half of the

game in a short while. Lynda.

KINKADE: Oh, I do love hearing for the fans. Melissa Bell, thank you. Oren, how are the fans feeling there? Given that they were up, to begin

with or they equalized rather. And now they down, do they feel like they can have a comeback in this second half?

LIEBERMANN: Certainly, this is a position the Croatia team has been in, in all of their elimination games. So far, they've had to come from behind.

They equalize quickly after France went up 1-0, and that of course, is the hope here that they will do that again.

It feels like there's a bit of a break here, certainly, as it's -- as its halftime, the fans saving themselves for the second half. It went wild

here when Perisic scores to equalize. They hope there is that celebration here once again.

Again, Lynda, is worth pointing out the team is come behind -- come from behind, and all the games up at this point. The fans here are hoping and

ready for that to happen again on the second half.

KINKADE: Excellent. Thanks so much, Oren. Good to have you there amongst the fans in Croatia. And thanks to you Melissa Bell in Paris.

I want to go back to Don Riddell now for His final thoughts. 2-1, just take us through the highlights so far, those goals.

RIDDELL: Well, first of all, we've got three goals in a World Cup final for the first time in a long time, I think 20 years. The last two World

Cup finals for 1-0, so already a lot of excitement. But no shortage of controversy.

At the moment, the French are leading with an own goal and a soft penalty. That's perhaps, not the way they would want to win the World Cup, although,

I guess they will take it.

Controversy here with the penalty that they won. It was an even Perisic's handball, it went to the VAR review. I think, the Croatians will be

particularly aggrieved that they didn't get some kind of review over the free kick that led to the first goal against them, which was scored over by

Mario Mandzukic.

But here we are, its halftime, France the leading, it is an open game, there's a lot of excitement and drama at both ends. I can tell you that

France have never lost the World Cup game that they were leading at halftime.

However, we know what Croatia are capable of in this tournament. We have seen it in all three of the knockout games where they have come from

behind. Everything about their World Cup story this year has been one of overcoming adversity and doing things the hard way, and we will see what

they made over the second half now.

KINKADE: They really have showing a lot of grit haven't they? They have won every single game so far.

RIDDELL: Right.

KINKADE: And that has shocked a lot of people. Does it shock to you?

RIDDELL: Well, you have to remember what the narrative was at the start of this tournament which was it's going to be Germany, or Brazil, or Spain?

And of course, all the favorites fell by the wayside. And we have seen so many upsets, and it is a surprise to see Croatia in the final.

But now that they are here and you look at the team they have, it's not that surprising. I mean, they are a team latent with stars that they talk

about this as their golden generation. Many of their players are Champions League winners on multiple occasions. So, they are a really, really strong

team.

They just weren't particularly fancy before the start of the tournament and that's partly because of the other big stars. But also they made heavy

weather of getting to this tournament in the first place. But, they're in the final and they're playing like they belong there.

[11:55:19] KINKADE: Yes, they certainly are. It's certainly is incredible, 2-1 in this World Cup. France ahead, but we are going into the

second half coming up. So we are going to have much more on that in the coming hours. So do stay with us right here at CNN.

Thanks so much to Don Riddell for taking us through all of that. I'm Lynda Kinkade. That was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks for watching. See you soon.

END

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