Croatia national football team

Nickname(s) Vatreni (The Blazers or Fiery Ones)
Vatra (The Fire or Inferno)
Il furioso incendio (Istrian Italian for: Blazing Fire)
Srce vatreno (Fiery Hearts)
Kockasti (The Chequered Ones)
Crvena i bijela (The Red and White)
Plavi (The Blues)
Association Croatian Football Federation
Confederation UEFA (Europe)
Head coach Zlatko Dalić
Captain Luka Modrić
Most caps Darijo Srna (134)
Top scorer Davor Šuker (45)
Home stadium Various
First colours
Second colours
FIFA ranking
Current 20 Decrease (7 June 2018)
Highest 3 (January 1999)
Lowest 125 (March 1994)
Elo ranking
Current 7 Decrease (15 July 2018)
Highest 5 (July 1998, July 2018)
Lowest 26 (October 2002)
First international
Flag of Banate of Croatia (1939-1941).svg Croatia 4–0 Switzerland  
(Zagreb, Croatia; 2 April 1940)
as modern Croatia
 Croatia 2–1 United States 
(Zagreb, Croatia; 17 October 1990)
Biggest win
 Croatia 10–0 San Marino 
(Rijeka, Croatia; 4 June 2016)
Biggest defeat
 England 5–1 Croatia 
(London, England; 9 September 2009)
World Cup
Appearances 5 (first in 1998)
Best result Runners-up (2018)
European Championship
Appearances 5 (first in 1996)
Best result Quarter-finals (1996, 2008)

The Croatia national football team (Croatian: Hrvatska nogometna reprezentacija) represents Croatia in international association football competitions. The team is managed by the Croatian Football Federation (HNS), the supreme governing body for football in Croatia. As the country's most popular sport, football is played across all age groups and at all levels throughout Croatia and its territories. Home matches are played at the Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb, with some fixtures also taking place at the Stadion Poljud in Split or at other smaller venues, such as the Stadion Kantrida in Rijeka or the Stadion Gradski vrt in Osijek.

Although football was introduced in 1873 by English expatriates, the first official teams played for various sovereign states before the formation of modern Croatia. Croatians played for the short-lived Banovina of Croatia from 1939 to 1941, Independent State of Croatia from 1941 to 1944, and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1992. Since 1993, Croatia has represented itself as an independent republic, recognized by both FIFA and UEFA. The team joined the international competition in 1996, with their successful qualifying campaign for the 1996 European Championships. Two years later in 1998, they were formally admitted into the FIFA World Cup competition, where they assembled their first "Golden Generation". Following a loss to France in the semi-finals and a win against the Netherlands, they placed third, providing the tournament's top scorer, Davor Šuker. Exactly twenty years later, anchored by their second "Golden Generation", Croatia reached the 2018 World Cup Final after finishing all tournament stages undefeated and secured second place to France, providing the tournament's best player, Luka Modrić.

Among a variety of nicknames, the team is colloquially known as the Vatreni ("Blazers" or "Fiery Ones"), the Vatra ("Fire" or "Inferno") or the Kockasti ("Chequered"). In the Italian-speaking counties the team is similarly known as Il furioso incendio ("The Blazing Fire"). Croatia has appeared in five (out of six) World Cups, winning a bronze medal in 1998 and a silver medal in 2018. They have appeared in five (out of six) European Championships, reaching the quarter-finals in 1996 and 2008. Its record for biggest defeat came in 2009 with a 5–1 loss to England while its highest-scoring victory was achieved in 2016 with a 10–0 friendly win over San Marino. Croatia jointly holds the world records for longest period between one goal and another of a player (2002–2014), most penalty shootouts in a tournament (2), most penalties saved in-game (3), and most usage of extra time (3).

Croatia was named FIFA's "Best Mover of the Year" in 1994 and 1998, one of only two teams—along with Colombia—to win the award more than once.[1][2] Upon admission to FIFA, Croatia was ranked 125th in the world; following the 1998 World Cup campaign, the side rose to third place in the rankings, making it the most volatile team in FIFA Rankings history.[3][4] Since 10 July 2018, Croatia has held the 5th highest Elo rating in the world with a record-high 1,973 points. The team's average Elo rating is 1,874, placing it 9th in the world, behind Uruguay. The national team has many long-standing rivalries, most notably the Derby Adriatico with Italy, the Derby tricolore with France, and a more politically-charged rivalry with Serbia.



The first recognised Croatian team played against Switzerland in 1940.

Association football was first introduced to Croatia by English expatriates working on industrial projects in Rijeka and Županja in 1873. By 1907, local clubs had been established in Croatia and a modern ion of the sport's laws was translated and published.[5] Before the nation's independence, Croatian footballers played for the national teams of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1919–39) and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1945–92), though during periods of political upheaval, ethnically Croatian sides occasionally formed to play unofficial matches.[6] A hastily arranged Croatian side, managed by Hugo Kinert, played a few matches in 1918–19.[7][8]

In 1940, Jozo Jakopić led an unofficial national team representing the Banovina of Croatia (part of Kingdom of Yugoslavia) in four friendly matches, against Switzerland and Hungary.[9] Following invasion by the Axis powers, the Croatian Football Federation became briefly active, joining FIFA on 17 July 1941, representing the Independent State of Croatia. The side, led by Rudolf Hitrec, went on to play 15 friendly matches, 14 of those as a member of FIFA.[10][11] Croatia's first recorded result as a FIFA member was a 1–1 draw with Slovakia on 8 September in Bratislava.[9] The Independent State of Croatia continued playing matches until 1945 and the end of World War II, when SR Croatia was formed as constituent part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.[11] From 1950 to 1956, unofficial Croatian teams were briefly active—they won games against Indonesia and a Yugoslav team playing as "Serbia".[8] The Yugoslavia squad at the 1956 Summer Olympics included Croatian footballers,[12] as did Yugoslavia in World Cup and European Championship tournaments up to 1990.[13][14]

Official formation[]

The last Yugoslav team to field a considerable Croatian contingent played against Faroe Islands on 16 May 1991, days before Croatia's independence referendum.[15] However, an unofficial Croatian team was formed shortly before, and played the team's first modern international game, against the United States on 17 October 1990 at Maksimir Stadium. The game, which Croatia won 2–1,[16] was one of three games played under caretaker manager Dražan Jerković. The match against the American side also marked the introduction of Croatia's national jersey, inspired by the chequered design of the country's coat of arms.[17] Although Croatia was still officially part of Yugoslavia until its independence declaration on 8 October 1991, this team already served as a de facto national side.[18][19] Croatia went on to win two more friendly games under Jerković, against Romania in December 1990 and Slovenia in June 1991.

On 3 July 1992, Croatia was re-admitted to FIFA, playing its first official matches in the modern era against Australia in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. This team was led by Stanko Poklepović as part of an international exhibition tour; in April 1993, Vlatko Marković was appointed as manager. Croatia finally gained admission into UEFA in June 1993, which was too late for the national team to enter the 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, as these already commenced the year before. Marković only led the team in one match, a home win against Ukraine in June 1993, before being dismissed in February 1994 and replaced by Miroslav Blažević the following month. The team's performances before Croatia's official independence were not recorded by FIFA, so they entered the World Rankings in 125th place.[20][21] Blažević led Croatia's qualifying campaign for Euro 1996, beginning with the nation's first post-independence competitive victory, a 2–0 win over Estonia on 4 September 1994. Their first competitive defeat came on 11 June 1995 in a 1–0 away loss to Ukraine during the same qualifying campaign.[9] They eventually finished first in their qualifying group[22] and won FIFA's 1994 Best Mover of the Year award as they moved up to 62nd in the rankings by the end of the year.[23]

Blažević period and the "golden generation" (1994–99)[]

Davor Šuker, the winner of the 1998 Golden Boot.

Goran Vlaović scored the team's first goal at a major tournament, a late winner against Turkey at the City Ground in Nottingham in their first group match at Euro 96.[24] After their opening victory, Croatia beat reigning champions Denmark 3–0,[25] but went on to lose against Portugal by the same scoreline in their final group fixture.[26] Croatia still advanced to the knockout stage, but were beaten in the quarter-finals 1–2 by Germany, who went on to win the tournament.[27]

In spite of the quarter-final exit, Blažević continued to lead Croatia in the 1998 World Cup qualifying campaign, which ended successfully after an aggregate victory against Ukraine in the two-legged play-off. In the group stage of the World Cup, Croatia beat Jamaica and Japan but lost to Argentina, before defeating Romania to reach a quarter-final tie against Germany, then ranked second in the world.[28] Croatia won 3–0 with goals from Robert Jarni, Goran Vlaović and Davor Šuker, all after Christian Wörns had been sent off. Croatia then faced the host nation, France, in the semi-final. After a goalless first-half, Croatia took the lead, only to concede two goals by opposing defender Lilian Thuram and lose 1–2. In the third-place match, Croatia beat the Netherlands 2–1, with Davor Šuker winning the Golden Boot award for scoring the most goals of the tournament with six goals in seven games.[29] Croatia's performance in 1998 was among the best debut performances in the World Cup (equaling Portugal's third place debut finish at the 1966 World Cup), and as a result, Croatia rose to number three in the January 1999 FIFA World Rankings, their highest ranking to date.[21][13] For their achievements, the team of the 1990s was dubbed the "Golden Generation."[30][31] A considerable portion of this squad (Jarni, Štimac, Boban, Prosinečki and Šuker), previously won the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship with the Yugoslavia under-20 team.

Despite good performances in their first two major competitions, Croatia's qualifying campaign for Euro 2000 was less successful, as they finished third in their qualifying group behind Yugoslavia and Republic of Ireland, and thus failed to qualify.[32] Both fixtures against archenemies Yugoslavia (the rump state later renamed Serbia and Montenegro) ended in draws, which prevented Croatia from qualifying for the tournament.[33]

Barić, Kranjčar, and Bilić periods (2000–12)[]

Croatian football fans during the 2001 international season.

Although Blažević continued his tenure in spite of failure to qualify for Euro 2000, he resigned in October 2000 following draws against Belgium and Scotland in the first two games of the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. His successor at the helm of the national team was Mirko Jozić, who previously led the Yugoslavia under-20 team to a World Cup triumph in 1987. Despite the retirement of many Golden Generation players, Croatia went unbeaten during the rest of the qualifiers. They opened their 2002 World Cup campaign with a narrow loss to Mexico before producing a surprise 2–1 victory over Euro 2000 finalists Italy in the next fixture, giving life to hopes of passing through to the knockout stage.[34][35] However, they lost their final group fixture to Ecuador and were eliminated.[36] Jozić then resigned, and was replaced in July 2002 by Croatian-Austrian Otto Barić, the team's first manager born outside the Balkans.[37][38]

During Barić's tenure, most of the remaining players from the Golden Generation squad were gradually replaced by younger players over the course of the Euro 2004 qualifiers. Croatia went on to qualify for the tournament with a playoff victory against Slovenia, winning 2–1 on aggregate after Dado Pršo's decisive late goal in the second leg.[39] At the finals tournament in Portugal, Croatia drew 0–0 with Switzerland and 2–2 with reigning champions France[40] only to lose to England 2–4 and suffer another elimination in the group stage.[41] Barić's two-year contract ended in June 2004 and was not renewed.[42] Former Croatia international Zlatko Kranjčar, appointed to succeed Barić in July 2004, led the team through the 2006 World Cup qualifiers without losing a single match and topping the group ahead of Sweden and Bulgaria.[43][44] However, local media outlets accused him of nepotism for selecting his son Niko Kranjčar for the national squad.[45] At the 2006 World Cup, Croatia lost their opening game to Brazil and drew 0–0 with Japan after Darijo Srna missed a first-half penalty.[46][47] A 2–2 draw with Australia, in which three players were sent off, confirmed Croatia's exit in the group stage.[48] The game was also notable for a mistake by referee Graham Poll, who gave three yellow cards to Croatian defender Josip Šimunić, failing to send him off after his second offense. He later stated that he mistook Šimunić for an Australian player due to his Australian accent.[note 1] Poll was heavily criticised for losing control of the match, and retired from refereeing shortly afterwards.[49]

Croatia vs. Brazil match at Zlatko Kranjčar

In July 2006, the Croatian Football Federation replaced Kranjčar with Slaven Bilić, who played for the national team during their Golden Generation era.[50] Bilić, who previously managed the under-21 team between 2004 and 2006, introduced a host of young players into the squad, which ultimately proved successful. His first game was a friendly away victory against 2006 World Cup champions Italy.[51][52] After controversially suspending Darijo Srna, Ivica Olić and Boško Balaban for missing a curfew after a turbofolk nightclub outing, Bilić led the team through qualifiers for Euro 2008.[53] Croatia topped their group, losing only one game to Macedonia and beating England twice, who as a result failed to qualify for the first time since 1984.[54][55]

Shortly before the European Championships, first-choice striker Eduardo, who was the team's top goalscorer during qualifying, suffered a compound fracture while playing for Arsenal in the Premier League. Bilić was forced to alter his final Euro 2008 squad significantly and recruited Nikola Kalinić and Nikola Pokrivač, neither of whom had yet played competitive games for the national team.[56][57] The team received criticism after poor attacking performances in warm-up games against Scotland and Moldova, but at the tournament they beat Austria, Germany and Poland in the group stages to reach the quarter-finals with maximum group points for the first time in their tournament history.[58][59][60] Niko Kovač remained team captain at what was expected to be his final international tournament, except in the final group fixture when Dario Šimić temporarily held the captain's armband.[61][62] Croatia's campaign ended dramatically when they lost a penalty shoot-out to Turkey, with Luka Modrić, Mladen Petrić and Ivan Rakitić all missing their penalties. Croatia left the tournament with records for fewest goals conceded (2), fewest games lost (0),[note 2] and earliest goal (in the fourth minute of their opening game against Austria; this was also the all-time earliest successful penalty at the European Championship Finals).[63][64][65][66]

Following the tournament, Bilić renewed his contract, becoming the first manager since Blažević to lead Croatia to successive tournaments.[67] Croatia were again drawn to play England in the qualifying stages for the 2010 World Cup; the tie was voted the most anticipated of the campaign on[68] After a home win against Kazakhstan Croatia lost at home to England, ending a 14-year unbeaten home record.[69][70] The team was eventually weakened due to a number of key players' injuries and went on to suffer their heaviest defeat in history, losing 5–1 to England at Wembley Stadium. Although Croatia defeated Kazakhstan in their final qualifying fixture, they were ultimately eliminated as Ukraine, who had previously defeated group leaders England, beat Andorra to win second place in the group. Bilić was once again heavily expected to resign as national coach, but instead vowed to renew his contract and remain in charge.

Croatia vs. Italy match at UEFA Euro 2012

Despite heavy loss of form, which also saw the team fall outside the top ten in the FIFA rankings, Croatia were placed in the top tier of teams for the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying draw; Croatia was previously a candidate to co-host the tournament with Hungary which would have allowed the team to qualify automatically, but UEFA eventually chose Poland and Ukraine as hosts instead. Despite being top-seeds in their qualifying group, Croatia finished second behind Greece, settling for a play-off against Euro 2008 rivals Turkey.[71] Croatia proceeded to beat Turkey 3–0 on aggregate, with all three goals coming in the away leg in Istanbul, thereby qualifying for the 2012 European championship. In the proceeding group-stage draw for the tournament, Croatia were placed in the third tier of teams, and were eventually grouped with Ireland, Italy and defending champions Spain.

In the buildup towards the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament, the team's first major competition since their 2008 run at the same event, manager Slaven Bilić formally agreed a deal to manage Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow, thereby announcing he would resign from the national team when the tournament ended. Croatia opened their campaign with a comfortable 3–1 victory over the Republic of Ireland, with striker Mario Mandžukić scoring twice. Mandžukić continued his run at the tournament with an equaliser in the 1–1 draw against Italy, which was marred by controversial fan reactions and referee decisions from English official Howard Webb. In their last group match, Croatia suffered a 0–1 defeat to Spain. The late Spanish goal by Jesús Navas, along with Italy's victory over the Republic of Ireland in the final round, forced Croatia to exit the tournament in the group stage once again. Upon his formal departure, Bilić was also praised for his long-standing service to the national side. Jutarnji List daily labelled him as Croatia's only manager to depart on such positive terms and cred him for his strong revival of the national side during his six-year tenure.[72]

Štimac, Kovač and Čačić period (2012–17)[]

Croatia vs. Brazil at 2014 World Cup

Following Bilić's departure, former player and pundit Igor Štimac was appointed manager of the national team. Croatia's all-time top goalscorer Davor Šuker also took over as president of the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) after the death of Vlatko Marković ended a 14-year tenure.[73][74] Štimac's managerial campaign was unsuccessful, as the team endured a succession of poor performances and narrowly finished second in their 2014 World Cup qualifying group. After only a year of his appointment, Štimac was replaced by former captain Niko Kovač, who previously managed the under-21 youth side.[75] Kovač led the team to a 2–0 aggregate victory over Iceland in the qualifying playoffs for the 2014 World Cup, with both goals coming in the home leg in Zagreb.[76] At the World Cup, Croatia were drawn with host-nation Brazil, Mexico and Cameroon. In the opening game of the tournament, Croatia lost 3–1 to Brazil. The match garnered heavy media attention and controversy as Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura was scrutinized for a number of controversial decisions.[77] In their second game, Croatia won 4–0 against Cameroon,[78] but did not progress from the group as they lost 3–1 to Mexico in their final fixture.[79][80]

In the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, Croatia were drawn against Italy, Bulgaria, Norway, Azerbaijan and Malta.[81] Following a goalless away draw against Azerbaijan and an away defeat to Norway,[82] in early September 2015, the Executive Committee of the Croatian Football Federation unanimously decided to terminate Kovač's contract.[83] On 21 September 2015, Ante Čačić was named as the head coach of the Croatian national team.[84] On 13 October 2015, Croatia qualified for the finals by finishing as runners-up in Group H.[85] Under Čačić, Croatia broke the record for most goals scored in one match, by beating San Marino in a friendly 10–0.[86]

At Euro 2016, Croatia were drawn in Group D; against Turkey, the Czech Republic and defending champions Spain, who had won the two previous ions of the tournament, in 2008 and 2012. Croatia began their campaign with a 1–0 win over Turkey; following a sensational long-volley kick from Luka Modrić, with the goal receiving praise and being considered one of the best of the tournament.[87][88][89] The next match was against the Czech Republic; with Croatia taking the lead through Ivan Perišić and doubling it through Ivan Rakitić, before goals from Milan Škoda and a last-minute penalty from Tomáš Necid; but the match received controversy for crowd trouble in the last minutes of the match, with Flares being thrown on the pitch and a steward being hurt by a firework during stoppage time.[90][91] Croatia's final match was against Spain; conceding an early goal from Álvaro Morata, before goals from Nikola Kalinić and a late winning goal from Ivan Perišić, securing Croatia a historic win as they topped the group, meanwhile for Spain it was their first defeat at a Euro finals match for the first time since 2004.[92][93] After the match, Croatia were tipped as one of the tournament favourites[94][95], and drew Portugal in the round of sixteen, who surprisingly finished third in the group, advancing only as the third-best third-placed team.[96] The match was extremely poor, described by BBC Sport as "abysmal", as there were no serious efforts on goal, with Ricardo Quaresma's winning goal in the 117th minute knocking Croatia out of the tournament.[97] Shortly after the Euro 2016 campaign, long-standing captain Darijo Srna announced his retirement from international football, amassing a record 134 appearances for the national side. Luka Modrić was announced as his successor for team captain.[98][99]

Dalić period and the second "golden generation" (2017–present)[]

Croatia started their 2018 World Cup qualification strongly, leading their group and remaining undefeated for the first round of matches. However, consecutive defeats against Iceland and Turkey, as well as a draw against lowly-ranked Finland threatened their qualification hopes and caused a public outcry against manager Ante Čačić.[100][101] He was quickly replaced by Zlatko Dalić, who led the team to a crucial 2–0 win against Ukraine in Kiev,[102] securing a spot in the playoff round against Greece. Croatia went on to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after beating Greece 4–1, with all goals coming in the first leg in Zagreb.[103][104]

In the buildup to the tournament,The Guardian, among other news outlets, labelled the 2017–18 squad as Croatia's second golden generation.[105][106] Key players such as Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, and Mario Mandžukić drew close comparisons to their 1998 counterparts, and were expected to achieve similar success.[107][108][109] Despite a poor showing in their friendly matches, Croatia started their World Cup campaign with a 2–0 victory over Nigeria, with Luka Modrić scoring a penalty.[110][111] Modrić went on to score again in a highly-applauded 3–0 victory over previous finalists Argentina, which was also marked by Vedran Ćorluka earning his 100th cap for the national team.[112][113][114] Croatia then defeated Iceland to top the group with maximum points, marking their best ever performance in the group stages of the World Cup.[115][116]

They went on to play Denmark in the round of sixteen; the match was dubbed as Croatia's best chance to finally win a knockout round fixture at a major tournament, which they hadn't done since 1998. Despite conceding in the first minute of the match, they equalized to force extra-time. In the ensuing penalty shootout, Croatia prevailed after goalkeeper Danijel Subašić saved three penalties. This was the team's first ever successful penalty shootout, garnering praise from the local public and media.[117][118][119] In the quarter-finals, Croatia drew 2–2 with hosts Russia, but advanced after another successful penalty shootout. This made them the first team since 1990 to win two consecutive penalty shootouts at the World Cup, and also equalled their best ever run at the tournament.[120][121][122]

The 2017–18 national squad, dubbed the "Second Golden Generation", posing with Vladimir Putin and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović after the 2018 World Cup Final against France.

Croatia went on to play England in the semi-finals. After going behind once more, they equalized to force their third consecutive extra-time, setting another record for most extra-time matches at the tournament. Mario Mandžukić eventually scored as Croatia won 2–1, making them the second-smallest country by population to reach the World Cup final (after Uruguay in 1930).[123][124][125][126][127] The win sparked massive celebrations across the country, as reported by several media outlets.[128][129]

In the buildup to the final, Croatian parliamentary members, including president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, wore football jerseys in support of the team.[130][131] Online searches for the team also reached their highest level in history, as the Croatian tourist board reported a 250% increase in website visits.[132] Croatia eventually lost the final 4–2 to France, after a controversial penalty awarded by the video assistant referee (VAR).[133] After the match, Luka Modrić became the first Croatian to win the Golden Ball award for best player of the tournament.

For their efforts, the Croatian team were greeted by over 550, 000 people at their homecoming in Zagreb, and were also awarded the order of the Croatian Daystar by the Croatian president.[134]

On 23 January 2018, Croatia were drawn to play against England and Spain in the inaugural ion of the UEFA Nations League; an international tournament contested by all UEFA member's national teams.[135][136]

Team image[]

Kit and crest[]

The Croatian chequy has been a symbol of Croatia since the Middle Ages.

Croatia's modern-day jersey was designed in 1990 by locally acclaimed painter Miroslav Šutej, who also designed the nation's coat of arms and banknotes. The traditional red and white motif is based on the historic Croatian checkerboard (šahovnica), which has been used to represent Croats since the Middle Ages.[137][138][139] Although there have been many slight variations made by manufacturers Lotto and Nike since the original release, the traditional chequered theme has remained a symbol of national identity, with similar incorporation used by many Croatian national sports teams and entities.[17]

Kit supplier Period
Germany Uhlsport 1990–1991
Italy Lotto 1992–1994
Italy Kappa 1994
Italy Lotto 1994–2000
United States Nike 2000–present


Croatia supporters at UEFA Euro 2012

Football is Croatia's most popular team sport, and the national team has developed an extensive fan base since its official formation in 1991.[140] Following Croatia's successful 1998 World Cup campaign, three years after the Croatian war of Independence, there was a rapid rise in domestic and global attention for the national side. English journalist Marcus Tanner of Balkan Insight commented that the national team became a symbol of Croatian independence from Yugoslavia.[141] However, after the death of former-president Franjo Tuđman, local political ties with the national team have loosened.

A large part of the team's support base consists of fans of Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb, the two best-supported clubs in the Croatian domestic league, the Prva HNL.[142] The clubs' ultra-style supporter groups, the Bad Blue Boys of Zagreb and The Torcida from Split, have both been associated with hooliganism,[143][144] though violence between the two groups does not occur at international games. Heavy support for the Croatian national team also comes from Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina, particularly from fans of Zrinjski Mostar.[145] The official Croatia supporters' club endorsed by the Croatian Football Federation is called Uvijek Vjerni (Always Faithful).[146]

Fans' behaviour at international games has led to various sanctions against the national side, despite due efforts by the HNS, Croatian government and players to prevent unwanted incidents. The team has been penalized and threatened with expulsion for multiple reports of racist and violent behaviour by its travelling fans, such as an isolated incident of racial abuse towards English striker Emile Heskey in 2010.[147][148][149] There were also minor reports of violent clashes involving Croatian fans at the European Championships in 2008 and 2012, as well the 2014 World Cup.[150][151] UEFA and FIFA have both penalized the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) for these incidents. During a friendly match against Italy in Livorno, a small group of travelling spectators formed the shape of a swastika.[149][152] A similar incident occurred in 2015 during another fixture against Italy as a swastika symbol was embedded onto the pitch at the Poljud Stadium. The Croatian Football Federation apologized for the incident, calling it an act of "sabotage" and requested a criminal investigation against the perpetrators. The team was docked 1 point in their qualifying group over the incident.[153]

A Croatian crowd celebrate with flares following Croatia's victory over Germany in 2008.

Croatian supporters often use flares during international matches, which has also caused sanctions as the use of pyrotechnics is condemned by FIFA and UEFA.[154][155][156] Croatia's Euro 2016 qualifying fixture against Italy in Milan was temporarily suspended due to flares being thrown onto the field by a small section of Croatian supporters, which also occurred at the European Championship match against Czech Republic.[157] The players and manager condemned this behavior, which was heavily suspected as a protest against the Croatian Football Federation for allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement. UEFA responded by ordering the team to play all European-sanctioned matches behind closed doors for a set period of time.

Maksimir Stadium was the scene of a politically-fuelled riot between Croat and Serb fans at a Dinamo Zagreb – Red Star Belgrade game following the 1990 parliamentary election.[158] This has led to extra security measures at matches involving Croatian and Serbian supporters, which has prevented any major incidents from occurring. The Croatian Football Federation and the Football Association of Serbia both agreed to play the scheduled 2014 World Cup qualifying matches between the two sides without away supporters.

The team's games are regularly broadcast live on HRT.[159] Shortly after becoming manager, Slaven Bilić and his rock band released a single, "Vatreno Ludilo" (Fiery Madness), which recalled the team's progress during the 1998 World Cup and praised their present ambitions. The song reached the top position on the Croatian music charts and was widely played during Euro 2008.[160][161] Other Croatian artists such as Dino Dvornik, Connect, Prljavo Kazalište and Baruni have recorded songs in support of the team, among which are "Malo nas je al nas ima" (We are few, but we exist), "Samo je jedno" (There is but one thing [in my life]), "Moj dom je Hrvatska" (My Home is Croatia), "Srce vatreno" (Fiery Heart), and "Hrvatska je prvak svijeta" (Croatia are World Champions). Croatian supporters are known for their "Bjezite ljudi, bjezite iz grada" chant, which often takes place when the team wins.[162][163]


The majority of home matches take place at the Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb, which is also the home-ground of local football club Dinamo Zagreb. The venue, built in 1912 and refurbished in 1997, is named after the surrounding neighbourhood of Maksimir and has hosted national team games since Croatia's competitive home debut against Lithuania.[164] The Croatian Football Federation (HNS) previously agreed on extensive plans with the government to renovate the stadium and increase its current forty-thousand seating capacity, however the proposal was eventually rejected by Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić in 2008 due to high construction costs.[164][165][166]

Some home matches are occasionally played at other, smaller venues around the country. The Poljud Stadium in Split has hosted several qualifying fixtures since 1995, the first being a 1–1 draw with Italy. In the period between 1995 and 2011, Croatia never won a competitive match at Poljud, which the local media dubbed "Poljudsko prokletsvo" ("the Poljud curse"). The run was finally ended after the team came from behind to beat Georgia on 3 June 2011.[167] Qualifying fixtures have also been played at the Stadion Kantrida in Rijeka, along with the Gradski vrt stadium in Osijek and the Stadion Anđelko Herjavec in Varaždin. However, these venues are rarely used due to their remote locations and smaller seating capacity, despite objections from local residents and some players.[168]

The following table provides a summary Croatia results at various venues used for home games. Since Croatia's first match in October 1990, they played home games at eleven stadiums around the country. The following table provides a summary of Croatia's results at home venues.

The Stadion Poljud in Split holds nearly 35,000 spectators and has been occupied by the national team since 1995.
Key: Pld–games played, W–games won, D–games drawn; L–games lost, %–win percentage
Stadium City / town Pld W D L Win % Last match hosted
Stadion Maksimir Zagreb 62 42 15 5 067.7 2017
Stadion Poljud Split 12 1 7 4 008.3 2015
Stadion Kantrida Rijeka 11 10 1 0 090.9 2011
Stadion Gradski vrt Osijek 11 9 2 0 081.8 2018
Stadion A. Herjavec Varaždin 7 5 2 0 071.4 2015
Stadion A. Drosina Pula 4 3 0 1 075.0 2014
Stadion Rujevica Rijeka 2 1 1 0 050.0 2017
Stadion Cibalia Vinkovci 1 1 0 0 100.0 2009
Stadion Kranjčevićeva Zagreb 1 1 0 0 100.0 1996
Stadion Šubićevac Šibenik 1 0 1 0 000.0 2003
Stadion Koprivnica Koprivnica 1 1 0 0 100.0 2016
Totals 113 74 29 10 65.2% &

Last updated: Croatia vs. Senegal, 8 June 2018. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.


Croatia contests the Derby Adriatico with Italy.
Croatia and Serbia, belligerents during the violent Yugoslav Wars, have developed a fierce rivalry.
Croatia contests the Le derby tricolore with France. The 2018 World Cup Final is seen as the pinnacle of their rivalry.

The Croatia national football team has numerous rivalries with other national football teams. While some are more friendly in nature, others are politically and/or socially charged. Among others, the most prominent rivalries are with the following countries:

Competitive record[]

FIFA World Cup[]

Croatia qualified for and competed in three consecutive World Cup tournaments between 1998 and 2006, but failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after finishing 3rd in Group 6 behind England and Ukraine. Although they had joined both FIFA and UEFA by 1992, they were unable to enter the 1994 World Cup as qualification had started before the side was officially recognised.[193] In the following three World Cup groups they were eliminated after finishing third in all of them, before finally advancing further than the group stage at the 2018 World Cup.[194] On 11 July 2018, Croatia won their semi-final match against England, advancing the national team to their first FIFA World Cup final wherein they secured second place as runners-up against winners France.[195] Supplanting their third place positioning in 1998, this is the nation's best performance to date.[196]

*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks; correct as of 26 June 2018 after the match against Iceland.
FIFA World Cup record FIFA World Cup qualification record
Year Result Position Pld W D L GF GA Squad Position Pld W D L GF GA
19301990 Part of  Yugoslavia
United States 1994 Did not enter
France 1998 Third place 3rd 7 5 0 2 11 5 Squad 2nd 10 5 4 1 20 13
South Korea Japan 2002 Group stage 23rd 3 1 0 2 2 3 Squad 1st 8 5 3 0 15 2
Germany 2006 22nd 3 0 2 1 2 3 Squad 1st 10 7 3 0 21 5
South Africa 2010 Did not qualify 3rd 10 6 2 2 19 13
Brazil 2014 Group stage 19th 3 1 0 2 6 6 Squad 2nd 12 6 3 3 14 9
Russia 2018 Runners-up 2nd 7 4 2 1 14 9 Squad 2nd 12 7 3 2 19 5
Qatar 2022 To be determined To be determined
CanadaMexicoUnited States 2026
Total 5/6 Runners-up 23 11 4 8 35 26 62 36 18 8 108 47
*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks
*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks

UEFA European Championship[]

Croatia's best results in UEFA Championships were quarter final finishes on their debut, in 1996, and in 2008. They did not qualify for the 2000 tournament. The HNS raised an unsuccessful joint bid with the Hungarian Football Federation to co-host the 2012 tournament, which was awarded instead to Poland and Ukraine.[197]

*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks; correct as of 25 June 2016 (Croatia v. Portugal).
UEFA European Championship record/UEFA European Championship qualifying
Year Round Position Pld W D L GF GA Squad Position Pld W D L GF GA
1960 to 1992 Part of  Yugoslavia
England 1996 Quarter-final 7th 4 2 0 2 5 5 Squad 1st 10 7 2 1 22 5
Belgium Netherlands 2000 Did not qualify 3rd 8 4 3 1 13 9
Portugal 2004 Group stage 13th 3 0 2 1 4 6 Squad 2nd 10 6 2 2 14 5
Austria Switzerland 2008 Quarter-final 5th 4 3 1 0 5 2 Squad 1st 12 9 2 1 28 8
Poland Ukraine 2012 Group stage 10th 3 1 1 1 4 3 Squad 2nd 12 8 2 2 21 7
France 2016 Round of 16 9th 4 2 1 1 5 4 Squad 2nd 10 6 3 1 20 5
Europe 2020 To be determined To be determined
Total Quarter-final 5/6 18 8 5 5 23 20 62 40 14 8 118 39

UEFA Nations League[]

Croatia is set to play in the UEFA Nations League's League A in against Spain and England.

UEFA Nations League
Year Division Group Round Pos Pld W D L GF GA
2018–19 A 4 To be determined
Total 0/1 0 0 0 0 0 0

All time team record[]

Modern Croatian team (1990–present)[198]

Positive balance (more wins)
Neutral balance (equal W/L ratio)
Negative balance (more losses)

FIFA ranking history[]

FIFA-ranking yearly averages for Croatia.[199]

Recent results and fixtures (2017–18)[]




Zlatko Dalić, the current manager of the Croatia national football team
Position Name
Head coach Croatia Zlatko Dalić
Assistant coaches Croatia Dražen Ladić
Croatia Ivica Olić
Goalkeeping coach Croatia Marjan Mrmić
Condition coach Croatia Luka Milanović
Physiotherapists Croatia Nenad Krošnjar
Croatia Mario Petrović
Croatia Nderim Redžaj
Doctors Croatia Zoran Bahtijarević
Croatia Saša Janković
Croatia Boris Nemec
Team manager Croatia Iva Olivari


Current squad[]

The following players were called up for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and preceding warm-up matches.[202]
All numbers, caps and goals as of 15 July 2018 after match against France, only matches as FIFA member are included.

No. Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club
1 1GK Dominik Livaković (1995-01-09) 9 January 1995 (age 23) 1 0 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb
12 1GK Lovre Kalinić (1990-04-03) 3 April 1990 (age 28) 12 0 Belgium Gent
23 1GK Danijel Subašić (1984-10-27) 27 October 1984 (age 33) 44 0 France Monaco

2 2DF Šime Vrsaljko (1992-01-10) 10 January 1992 (age 26) 41 0 Spain Atlético Madrid
3 2DF Ivan Strinić (1987-07-17) 17 July 1987 (age 31) 49 0 Italy Milan
5 2DF Vedran Ćorluka (1986-02-05) 5 February 1986 (age 32) 103 4 Russia Lokomotiv Moscow
6 2DF Dejan Lovren (1989-07-05) 5 July 1989 (age 29) 46 2 England Liverpool
13 2DF Tin Jedvaj (1995-11-28) 28 November 1995 (age 22) 13 0 Germany Bayer Leverkusen
15 2DF Duje Ćaleta-Car (1996-09-17) 17 September 1996 (age 21) 2 0 France Marseille
21 2DF Domagoj Vida (1989-04-29) 29 April 1989 (age 29) 65 3 Turkey Beşiktaş
22 2DF Josip Pivarić (1989-01-30) 30 January 1989 (age 29) 23 0 Ukraine Dynamo Kyiv

4 3MF Ivan Perišić (1989-02-02) 2 February 1989 (age 29) 73 21 Italy Internazionale
7 3MF Ivan Rakitić (Vice-captain) (1988-03-10) 10 March 1988 (age 30) 99 15 Spain Barcelona
8 3MF Mateo Kovačić (1994-05-06) 6 May 1994 (age 24) 46 1 Spain Real Madrid
10 3MF Luka Modrić (Captain) (1985-09-09) 9 September 1985 (age 32) 113 14 Spain Real Madrid
11 3MF Marcelo Brozović (1992-11-16) 16 November 1992 (age 25) 41 6 Italy Internazionale
14 3MF Filip Bradarić (1992-01-11) 11 January 1992 (age 26) 5 0 Croatia Rijeka
19 3MF Milan Badelj (1989-02-25) 25 February 1989 (age 29) 41 2 Unattached

9 4FW Andrej Kramarić (1991-06-19) 19 June 1991 (age 27) 38 10 Germany 1899 Hoffenheim
17 4FW Mario Mandžukić (1986-05-21) 21 May 1986 (age 32) 89 33 Italy Juventus
18 4FW Ante Rebić (1993-09-21) 21 September 1993 (age 24) 22 2 Germany Eintracht Frankfurt
20 4FW Marko Pjaca (1995-05-06) 6 May 1995 (age 23) 19 1 Italy Juventus

Recent call-ups[]

The following players have also been called up to the Croatia squad in the last 12 months and are still eligible for selection.

Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club Latest call-up
GK Karlo Letica (1997-02-11) 11 February 1997 (age 21) 0 0 Belgium Club Brugge 2018 FIFA World Cup

DF Matej Mitrović (1993-11-10) 10 November 1993 (age 24) 9 1 Belgium Club Brugge 2018 FIFA World Cup
DF Borna Barišić (1992-11-10) 10 November 1992 (age 25) 3 0 Croatia Osijek 2018 FIFA World Cup
DF Zoran Nižić (1989-10-11) 11 October 1989 (age 28) 2 0 Croatia Hajduk Split 2018 FIFA World Cup
DF Borna Sosa (1998-01-21) 21 January 1998 (age 20) 0 0 Germany VfB Stuttgart 2018 FIFA World Cup
DF Marin Leovac (1988-08-07) 7 August 1988 (age 29) 4 0 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb v.  Peru, 23 March 2018
DF Antonio Milić (1994-03-10) 10 March 1994 (age 24) 0 0 Belgium Anderlecht v.  Ukraine, 9 October 2017

MF Marko Rog (1995-07-19) 19 July 1995 (age 23) 12 0 Italy Napoli 2018 FIFA World Cup
MF Mario Pašalić (1995-02-09) 9 February 1995 (age 23) 6 0 England Chelsea 2018 FIFA World Cup
MF Nikola Vlašić (1997-10-04) 4 October 1997 (age 20) 2 0 England Everton v.  Greece, 12 November 2017

FW Nikola Kalinić (1988-01-05) 5 January 1988 (age 30) 42 15 Italy Milan 2018 FIFA World Cup
FW Duje Čop (1990-02-01) 1 February 1990 (age 28) 13 2 Belgium Standard Liège 2018 FIFA World Cup
FW Ivan Santini (1989-05-21) 21 May 1989 (age 29) 2 0 Belgium Anderlecht 2018 FIFA World Cup

Previous squads[]


Most capped players[]

Darijo Srna, former captain (2008–2016) and all-time most capped player.
# Name Croatia career Caps Goals Ref.
1 Darijo Srna 2002–2016 134 22 [203]
2 Stipe Pletikosa 1999–2014 114 0
3 Luka Modrić 2006– 113 14
4 Josip Šimunić 2001–2013 105 3
5 Ivica Olić 2002–2015 104 20
6 Vedran Ćorluka 2006– 103 4
7 Dario Šimić 1996–2008 100 3
8 Ivan Rakitić 2007– 99 15
9 Mario Mandžukić 2007– 89 33
10 Robert Kovač 1999–2009 84 0

Last updated: France vs. Croatia, 15 July 2018.

Source: Croatian Football Federation

Top goalscorers[]

Davor Šuker, Croatia's all-time top scorer.
# Name Croatia career Goals Caps Ref.
1 Davor Šuker[33] 1991–2002 45 69 [203]
2 Mario Mandžukić 2007– 33 89
3 Eduardo da Silva 2004–2014 29 64
4 Darijo Srna 2002–2016 22 134
5 Ivan Perišić 2011– 21 73
6 Ivica Olić 2002–2015 20 104
7 Niko Kranjčar 2004–2013 16 81
8 Goran Vlaović 1992–2002 15 52
Nikola Kalinić 2007– 42
Ivan Rakitić 2007– 99

Last updated: France vs. Croatia, 15 July 2018.

Source: Croatian Football Federation


The following table provides a summary of the complete record of each Croatia manager including their results regarding World Cups and European Championships.

Key: Pld–games played, W–games won, D–games drawn; L–games lost, %–win percentage
Manager Croatia tenure Pld W D L Win % Major competitions
Croatia Dražan Jerković 1990–1991 3 3 0 0 100.0 &
Croatia Stanko Poklepović 1992 4 1 1 2 025.0 &
Croatia Vlatko Marković 1993–1994 1 1 0 0 100.0 &
Croatia Miroslav Blažević 1994–2000 72 33 24 15 045.8 Symbol confirmed.svg 1996 European Championship – Quarter-final
Symbol confirmed.svg 1998 World Cup – Third place
Symbol delete vote.svg 2000 European Championship – Failed to qualify
Croatia Tomislav Ivić (c)[note 3] 1994 1 1 0 0 100.0 &
Croatia Mirko Jozić 2000–2002 18 9 6 3 050.0 Symbol confirmed.svg 2002 World Cup – Group stage
Croatia Otto Barić 2002–2004 24 11 8 5 045.8 Symbol confirmed.svg 2004 European Championship – Group stage
Croatia Zlatko Kranjčar 2004–2006 25 11 8 6 044.0 Symbol confirmed.svg 2006 World Cup – Group stage
Croatia Slaven Bilić 2006–2012 65 42 15 8 064.6 Symbol confirmed.svg 2008 European Championship – Quarter-final
Symbol delete vote.svg 2010 World Cup – Failed to qualify
Symbol confirmed.svg 2012 European Championship – Group stage
Croatia Igor Štimac 2012–2013 15 8 2 5 053.3 &
Croatia Niko Kovač 2013–2015 19 10 5 4 052.6 Symbol confirmed.svg 2014 World Cup – Group stage
Croatia Ante Čačić 2015–2017 25 15 6 4 060.0 Symbol confirmed.svg 2016 European Championship – Round of 16
Croatia Zlatko Dalić 2017– 14 8 3 3 057.1 Symbol confirmed.svg 2018 World Cup – Runners-up
Totals 286 153 78 55 53.7% 10 out of 12

Last updated: Croatia vs. France, 15 July 2018.

Source: Croatian Football Federation


Minor tournaments

Other awards

See also[]


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  1. ^ The rules of Association football state that on receiving a second yellow card in a single match a player must be given a red card and be removed for the rest of the match. Laws of the game
  2. ^ Under the rules of Association football and the official European Championship tournament regulations, a loss inflicted via a penalty shootout does not count as a defeat, but rather a tie which needed a final process to determine the team which advances. Laws of the game
  3. ^ In September 1994, national team manager Miroslav Blažević, who was also coaching Croatia Zagreb at the time, was dismissed on a 1994–95 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup match against Auxerre. Blažević was suspended by UEFA for one game and Ivić was appointed as his replacement for the UEFA Euro 1996 qualifying match against Italy in November 1994.


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