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The Biggest Croatia Football Success Stories and can they win Euro 2024?

Croatian squad training ahead of Euro 2024

Croatia is a small country with a population of roughly 4 million. It has only been independent since the year 1991. Yet, its successes on the football pitch have given it quite a reputation abroad. Here we will look at the biggest Croatia football success stories, along with the question of whether their national team should be considered a contender at the upcoming UEFA Euro 2024 tournament.

Top 4 Croatia Football Success Stories

1998 FIFA World Cup

The first of the tales of success came with the national team’s first World Cup participation after gaining independence. After defeating two fellow debutants in the group stage at the tournament (namely Jamaica and Japan) and narrowly losing the third match of the section to heavyweights Argentina, they advanced to the knockout stage as runners up of their group.

Read More: Every Bayern Munich Player Picked for Euro 2024

In the Round of 16, they barely squeezed past Romania, before thrashing Germany 3-0 in the quarterfinals in one of the most memorable games in the country’s history to date. Unfortunately, their dream of winning France ’98 ended at the hands of the hosts in a 2-1 defeat, after having taken the lead. Croatia did beat the Netherlands to clinch third place in that tournament.

2018 FIFA World Cup

It took the national team a full 20 years to recapture the glory of 1998, but it would be worth the wait. In fact, the Croatia football success story in Russia was even greater than at that first World Cup appearance in France. The team won all three group games vs. Nigeria, Argentina as well as Iceland.

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But in the knockout stages, they exchanged pragmatism for the flair they had shown in the section.

The team defeated both Denmark and Russia on penalties, after having conceded the opening goal in each match. Croatia then went on to come back yet again, this time overcoming England 2-1 in extra time in the semifinal.

Having played more football than any other team in terms of minutes at that tournament became visible in the final against yet again the French, as “Les Blues” came out victorious by a 4-2 scoreline.

2022 FIFA World Cup

The Croats reached the podium again in Qatar, although they did not play the same attacking football as in 1998, or at times in 2018. This time the same coach as four years earlier Zlatko Dalic favoured a much more defensive approach. The second group match vs. Canada was a rare exception to that rule. They went on to win it 4-1. The other two outings in that stage vs. Morrocco and Belgium ended scoreless.

It was nonetheless enough to send the Vatreni through. In the knockout rounds, they yet again successfully navigated two penalty shootouts. This time it was against Japan in the Round of 16 and sensationally against Brazil in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, they collapsed 3-0 to Argentina, after a questionable spot-kick was given to Lionel Messi’s side, which would put the South Americans 1-0 up. Croatia then defeated their former group opponents Marocco to finish off the tournament with the bronze medal.

2022/23 UEFA Nations League

The most recent of the Croatia football success stories may not have come at a big, reputable tournament, but it was nonetheless significant, as it was the Vatreni’s only medal in a continental competition.

They won the group ahead of Denmark, their traditional bogie team France, as well as Austria to qualify for the Final Four tournament in the Netherlands. They then defeated the hosts in extra-time, before losing the final to Spain on penalties.

Can Croatia Go All the Way at the Euros in 2024?

While Dalic has without a doubt given them an incredible team spirit, it will take much more than that to triumph in Germany, at what will surely be captain Luka Modric’s last big tournament. Particularly a natural goal scorer is missing. But maybe Ante Budimir or, even Bruno Petkovic can still grow into such a role at EURO 2024.


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