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|
|Head coach||Zlatko Dalić|
|Most caps||Darijo Srna (134)|
|Top scorer||Davor Šuker (45)|
|Current||20 (7 June 2018)|
|Highest||3 (January 1999)|
|Lowest||125 (March 1994)|
|Current||7 (15 July 2018)|
|Highest||5 (July 1998, July 2018)|
|Lowest||26 (October 2002)|
Croatia 4–0 Switzerland |
(Zagreb, Croatia; 2 April 1940)
as modern Croatia
Croatia 2–1 United States
(Zagreb, Croatia; 17 October 1990)
Croatia 10–0 San Marino |
(Rijeka, Croatia; 4 June 2016)
England 5–1 Croatia |
(London, England; 9 September 2009)
|Appearances||5 (first in 1998)|
|Best result||Runners-up (2018)|
|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. 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. 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.
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. 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. A hastily arranged Croatian side, managed by Hugo Kinert, played a few matches in 1918–19.
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. 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. Croatia's first recorded result as a FIFA member was a 1–1 draw with Slovakia on 8 September in Bratislava. 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. From 1950 to 1956, unofficial Croatian teams were briefly active—they won games against Indonesia and a Yugoslav team playing as "Serbia". The Yugoslavia squad at the 1956 Summer Olympics included Croatian footballers, as did Yugoslavia in World Cup and European Championship tournaments up to 1990.
The last Yugoslav team to field a considerable Croatian contingent played against Faroe Islands on 16 May 1991, days before Croatia's independence referendum. 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, 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. 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. 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. 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. They eventually finished first in their qualifying group 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.
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. After their opening victory, Croatia beat reigning champions Denmark 3–0, but went on to lose against Portugal by the same scoreline in their final group fixture. 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.
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. 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. 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. For their achievements, the team of the 1990s was dubbed the "Golden Generation." 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. Both fixtures against archenemies Yugoslavia (the rump state later renamed Serbia and Montenegro) ended in draws, which prevented Croatia from qualifying for the tournament.
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. However, they lost their final group fixture to Ecuador and were eliminated. Jozić then resigned, and was replaced in July 2002 by Croatian-Austrian Otto Barić, the team's first manager born outside the Balkans.
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. At the finals tournament in Portugal, Croatia drew 0–0 with Switzerland and 2–2 with reigning champions France only to lose to England 2–4 and suffer another elimination in the group stage. Barić's two-year contract ended in June 2004 and was not renewed. 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. However, local media outlets accused him of nepotism for selecting his son Niko Kranjčar for the national squad. 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. A 2–2 draw with Australia, in which three players were sent off, confirmed Croatia's exit in the group stage. 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.
In July 2006, the Croatian Football Federation replaced Kranjčar with Slaven Bilić, who played for the national team during their Golden Generation era. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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).
Following the tournament, Bilić renewed his contract, becoming the first manager since Blažević to lead Croatia to successive tournaments. 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 FIFA.com. After a home win against Kazakhstan Croatia lost at home to England, ending a 14-year unbeaten home record. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. In their second game, Croatia won 4–0 against Cameroon, but did not progress from the group as they lost 3–1 to Mexico in their final fixture.
In the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, Croatia were drawn against Italy, Bulgaria, Norway, Azerbaijan and Malta. Following a goalless away draw against Azerbaijan and an away defeat to Norway, in early September 2015, the Executive Committee of the Croatian Football Federation unanimously decided to terminate Kovač's contract. On 21 September 2015, Ante Čačić was named as the head coach of the Croatian national team. On 13 October 2015, Croatia qualified for the finals by finishing as runners-up in Group H. Under Čačić, Croatia broke the record for most goals scored in one match, by beating San Marino in a friendly 10–0.
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. 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. 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. After the match, Croatia were tipped as one of the tournament favourites, and drew Portugal in the round of sixteen, who surprisingly finished third in the group, advancing only as the third-best third-placed team. 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. 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.
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. He was quickly replaced by Zlatko Dalić, who led the team to a crucial 2–0 win against Ukraine in Kiev, 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.
In the buildup to the tournament,The Guardian, among other news outlets, labelled the 2017–18 squad as Croatia's second golden generation. 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. 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. 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. Croatia then defeated Iceland to top the group with maximum points, marking their best ever performance in the group stages of the World Cup.
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. 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.
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). The win sparked massive celebrations across the country, as reported by several media outlets.
In the buildup to the final, Croatian parliamentary members, including president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, wore football jerseys in support of the team. Online searches for the team also reached their highest level in history, as the Croatian tourist board reported a 250% increase in website visits. Croatia eventually lost the final 4–2 to France, after a controversial penalty awarded by the video assistant referee (VAR). After the match, Luka Modrić became the first Croatian to win the Golden Ball award for best player of the tournament.
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.
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. 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.
Football is Croatia's most popular team sport, and the national team has developed an extensive fan base since its official formation in 1991. 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. 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. The clubs' ultra-style supporter groups, the Bad Blue Boys of Zagreb and The Torcida from Split, have both been associated with hooliganism, 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. The official Croatia supporters' club endorsed by the Croatian Football Federation is called Uvijek Vjerni (Always Faithful).
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. 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. 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. 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.
Croatian supporters often use flares during international matches, which has also caused sanctions as the use of pyrotechnics is condemned by FIFA and UEFA. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
|Stadium||City / town||Pld||W||D||L||Win %||Last match hosted|
|Stadion Gradski vrt||Osijek||11||9||2||0||81.8||2018|
|Stadion A. Herjavec||Varaždin||7||5||2||0||71.4||2015|
|Stadion A. Drosina||Pula||4||3||0||1||75.0||2014|
Last updated: Croatia vs. Senegal, 8 June 2018. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.
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:
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. 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. 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. Supplanting their third place positioning in 1998, this is the nation's best performance to date.
|FIFA World Cup record||FIFA World Cup qualification record|
|1930–1990||Part of Yugoslavia||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1994||Did not enter||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|2010||Did not qualify||3rd||10||6||2||2||19||13|
|2022||To be determined||To be determined|
|List of FIFA World Cup matches|
|1998||Group H||Jamaica||3 – 1||Win||14 June 1998||Stade Félix-Bollaert, Lens|
|Japan||1 – 0||Win||20 June 1998||Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes|
|Argentina||0 – 1||Loss||26 June 1998||Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux|
|Round of 16||Romania||1 – 0||Win||30 June 1998||Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux|
|Quarter-final||Germany||3 – 0||Win||4 July 1998||Stade de Gerland, Lyon|
|Semi-final||France||1 – 2||Loss||8 July 1998||Stade de France, Paris|
|Bronze Final||Netherlands||2 – 1||Win||11 July 1998||Parc des Princes, Paris|
|2002||Group G||Mexico||0 – 1||Loss||3 June 2002||Denka Big Swan Stadium, Niigata, Niigata|
|Italy||2 – 1||Win||8 June 2002||Kashima Soccer Stadium, Kashima|
|Ecuador||0 – 1||Loss||13 June 2002||International Stadium, Yokohama|
|2006||Group F||Brazil||0 – 1||Loss||13 June 2006||Olympiastadion, Berlin|
|Japan||0 – 0||Draw||18 June 2006||Frankenstadion, Nuremberg|
|Australia||2 – 2||Draw||22 June 2006||Mercedes-Benz Arena, Stuttgart|
|2014||Group A||Brazil||1 – 3||Loss||12 June 2014||Arena Corinthians, São Paulo|
|Cameroon||4 – 0||Win||18 June 2014||Arena da Amazônia, Manaus|
|Mexico||1 – 3||Loss||23 June 2014||Itaipava Arena Pernambuco, Recife|
|2018||Group D||Nigeria||2 – 0||Win||16 June 2018||Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad|
|Argentina||3 – 0||Win||21 June 2018||Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod|
|Iceland||2 – 1||Win||26 June 2018||Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don|
|Round of 16||Denmark||1 – 1 (3–2 p)||Draw||1 July 2018||Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod|
|Quarter-final||Russia||2 – 2 (4–3 p)||Draw||7 July 2018||Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi|
|Semi-final||England||2 – 1||Win||11 July 2018||Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow|
|Final||France||2 – 4||Loss||15 July 2018||Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow|
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.
|UEFA European Championship record/UEFA European Championship qualifying|
|1960 to 1992||Part of Yugoslavia||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|2000||Did not qualify||3rd||8||4||3||1||13||9|
|2016||Round of 16||9th||4||2||1||1||5||4||Squad||2nd||10||6||3||1||20||5|
|2020||To be determined||To be determined|
|List of UEFA European Football Championship matches|
|1996||Group D||Turkey||1–0||Win||11 June 1996||Nottingham, England|
|Denmark||3–0||Win||16 June 1996||Sheffield, England|
|Portugal||0–3||Loss||19 June 1996||Nottingham, England|
|Quarter-final||Germany||1–2||Loss||23 June 1996||Manchester, England|
|2004||Group B||Switzerland||0–0||Draw||13 June 2004||Leiria, Portugal|
|France||2–2||Draw||17 June 2004||Leiria, Portugal|
|England||2–4||Loss||21 June 2004||Lisboa, Portugal|
|2008||Group B||Austria||1–0||Win||8 June 2008||Wien, Austria|
|Germany||2–1||Win||12 June 2008||Klagenfurt, Austria|
|Poland||1–0||Win||16 June 2008||Klagenfurt, Austria|
|Quarter-final||Turkey||1–1 (1–3 p)||Draw (elim.)||20 June 2008||Wien, Austria|
|2012||Group C||Republic of Ireland||3–1||Win||10 June 2012||Poznań, Poland|
|Italy||1–1||Draw||14 June 2012||Poznań, Poland|
|Spain||0–1||Loss||18 June 2012||Gdańsk, Poland|
|2016||Group D||Turkey||1–0||Win||12 June 2016||Paris, France|
|Czech Republic||2–2||Draw||17 June 2016||Saint-Étienne, France|
|Spain||2–1||Win||21 June 2016||Bordeaux, France|
|Round of 16||Portugal||0–1||Loss||25 June 2016||Lens, France|
|UEFA Nations League|
|2018–19||A||4||To be determined|
Modern Croatian team (1990–present)
|Positive balance (more wins)|
|Neutral balance (equal W/L ratio)|
|Negative balance (more losses)|
|Croatia all-time record (1992–present)|
As of 15 July 2018, after the match against France.
FIFA-ranking yearly averages for Croatia.
|3 September 2017 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification||Croatia||1–0||Kosovo||Zagreb, Croatia|
|Vida 74'||Report (FIFA)
|Stadium: Stadion Maksimir
Referee: Stefan Johannesson (Sweden)
|5 September 2017 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification||Turkey||1–0||Croatia||Eskişehir, Turkey|
|Stadium: New Eskişehir Stadium
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)
|6 October 2017 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification||Croatia||1–1||Finland||Rijeka, Croatia|
|Mandžukić 57'||Report (FIFA)
|Soiri 90'||Stadium: Stadion Rujevica
Referee: Daniel Stefanski (Poland)
|9 October 2017 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification||Ukraine||0–2||Croatia||Kiev, Ukraine|
|Kramarić 62' 70'||Stadium: Olympic Stadium
Referee: Felix Brych (Germany)
|9 November 2017 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification||Croatia||4–1||Greece||Zagreb, Croatia|
|Papastathopoulos 30'||Stadium: Stadion Maksimir
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)
|12 November 2017 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification||Greece||0–0
|Stadium: Karaiskakis Stadium
Referee: Björn Kuipers (Netherlands)
|23 March 2018 Friendly Match||Peru||2–0||Croatia||Miami, United States|
|01:00 (UTC+1)||Carrillo 12'
Yoshimar Yotun 57', 75'
|Report||Stadium: Hard Rock Stadium
Referee: Ismail Elfath (United States)
|27 March 2018 Friendly Match||Mexico||0–1||Croatia||Dallas, United States|
|04:00 (UTC+1)||Report||Rakitić 62' (pen.)||Stadium: AT&T Stadium
Referee: Mario Alberto Escobar (Guatemala)
|3 June 2018 Friendly Match||Croatia||0–2||Brazil||Liverpool, England|
|16:00 (UTC+1)||Report||Neymar 69'
Referee: Michael Oliver (England)
|8 June 2018 Friendly Match||Croatia||2–1||Senegal||Osijek, Croatia|
|18:00 (UTC+2)||Perišić 63'
|Report||Sarr 48'||Stadium: Stadion Gradski vrt
Referee: Ádám Farkas (Hungary)
|16 June 2018 2018 FIFA World Cup||Croatia||2–0||Nigeria||Kaliningrad, Russia|
|21:00 KALT (UTC+2)||Etebo 32' (o.g.)
Modrić 71' (pen.)
|Report||Stadium: Kaliningrad Stadium
Referee: Sandro Ricci (Brazil)
|21 June 2018 2018 FIFA World Cup||Argentina||0–3||Croatia||Nizhny Novgorod, Russia|
|21:00 MSK (UTC+3)||Report||Rebić 53'
|Stadium: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
|26 June 2018 2018 FIFA World Cup||Iceland||1–2||Croatia||Rostov-on-Don, Russia|
|21:00 MSK (UTC+3)||G. Sigurðsson 76' (pen.)||Report||Badelj 53'
|Stadium: Rostov Arena
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Spain)
|1 July 2018 2018 FIFA World Cup||Croatia||1–1 (a.e.t.)
|Denmark||Nizhny Novgorod, Russia|
|21:00 MSK (UTC+3)||Mandžukić 4'||Report||M. Jørgensen 1'||Stadium: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
Referee: Néstor Pitana (Argentina)
|7 July 2018 2018 FIFA World Cup||Russia||2–2 (a.e.t.)
|21:00 MSK (UTC+3)||Cheryshev 31'
|Stadium: Fisht Olympic Stadium
Referee: Sandro Ricci (Brazil)
|11 July 2018 2018 FIFA World Cup||Croatia||2–1 (a.e.t.)||England||Moscow, Russia|
|21:00 MSK (UTC+3)||Perišić 68'
|Report||Trippier 5'||Stadium: Luzhniki Stadium
Referee: Cüneyt Çakır (Turkey)
|15 July 2018 2018 FIFA World Cup Final||France||4–2||Croatia||Moscow, Russia|
|18:00 MSK (UTC+3)||Mandžukić 18' (o.g.)
Griezmann 38' (pen.)
|Stadium: Luzhniki Stadium
Referee: Néstor Pitana (Argentina)
|6 September 2018 Friendly Match||Portugal||v||Croatia||Loulé, Portugal|
|20:45 (UTC+2)||Report||Stadium: Estádio do Algarve
|11 September 2018 2018–19 Nations League||Spain||v||Croatia||Elche, Spain|
|Report||Stadium: Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero
|12 October 2018 2018–19 Nations League||Croatia||v||England||Rijeka, Croatia|
|Report||Stadium: Stadion Rujevica
|15 October 2018 Friendly Match||Croatia||v||Jordan||Rijeka, Croatia|
|Report||Stadium: Stadion Rujevica
|15 November 2018 2018–19 Nations League||Croatia||v||Spain||Zagreb, Croatia|
|Report||Stadium: Stadion Maksimir
|18 November 2018 2018–19 Nations League||England||v||Croatia||London, England|
|Report||Stadium: Wembley Stadium
|Head coach||Zlatko Dalić|
|Assistant coaches|| Dražen Ladić|
|Goalkeeping coach||Marjan Mrmić|
|Condition coach||Luka Milanović|
|Physiotherapists|| Nenad Krošnjar|
|Doctors|| Zoran Bahtijarević|
|Team manager||Iva Olivari|
The following players were called up for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and preceding warm-up matches.
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||GK||Dominik Livaković||9 January 1995||1||0||Dinamo Zagreb|
|12||GK||Lovre Kalinić||3 April 1990||12||0||Gent|
|23||GK||Danijel Subašić||27 October 1984||44||0||Monaco|
|2||DF||Šime Vrsaljko||10 January 1992||41||0||Atlético Madrid|
|3||DF||Ivan Strinić||17 July 1987||49||0||Milan|
|5||DF||Vedran Ćorluka||5 February 1986||103||4||Lokomotiv Moscow|
|6||DF||Dejan Lovren||5 July 1989||46||2||Liverpool|
|13||DF||Tin Jedvaj||28 November 1995||13||0||Bayer Leverkusen|
|15||DF||Duje Ćaleta-Car||17 September 1996||2||0||Marseille|
|21||DF||Domagoj Vida||29 April 1989||65||3||Beşiktaş|
|22||DF||Josip Pivarić||30 January 1989||23||0||Dynamo Kyiv|
|4||MF||Ivan Perišić||2 February 1989||73||21||Internazionale|
|7||MF||Ivan Rakitić (Vice-captain)||10 March 1988||99||15||Barcelona|
|8||MF||Mateo Kovačić||6 May 1994||46||1||Real Madrid|
|10||MF||Luka Modrić (Captain)||9 September 1985||113||14||Real Madrid|
|11||MF||Marcelo Brozović||16 November 1992||41||6||Internazionale|
|14||MF||Filip Bradarić||11 January 1992||5||0||Rijeka|
|19||MF||Milan Badelj||25 February 1989||41||2||Unattached|
|9||FW||Andrej Kramarić||19 June 1991||38||10||1899 Hoffenheim|
|17||FW||Mario Mandžukić||21 May 1986||89||33||Juventus|
|18||FW||Ante Rebić||21 September 1993||22||2||Eintracht Frankfurt|
|20||FW||Marko Pjaca||6 May 1995||19||1||Juventus|
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||11 February 1997||0||0||Club Brugge||2018 FIFA World Cup|
|DF||Matej Mitrović||10 November 1993||9||1||Club Brugge||2018 FIFA World Cup|
|DF||Borna Barišić||10 November 1992||3||0||Osijek||2018 FIFA World Cup|
|DF||Zoran Nižić||11 October 1989||2||0||Hajduk Split||2018 FIFA World Cup|
|DF||Borna Sosa||21 January 1998||0||0||VfB Stuttgart||2018 FIFA World Cup|
|DF||Marin Leovac||7 August 1988||4||0||Dinamo Zagreb||v. Peru, 23 March 2018|
|DF||Antonio Milić||10 March 1994||0||0||Anderlecht||v. Ukraine, 9 October 2017|
|MF||Marko Rog||19 July 1995||12||0||Napoli||2018 FIFA World Cup|
|MF||Mario Pašalić||9 February 1995||6||0||Chelsea||2018 FIFA World Cup|
|MF||Nikola Vlašić||4 October 1997||2||0||Everton||v. Greece, 12 November 2017|
|FW||Nikola Kalinić||5 January 1988||42||15||Milan||2018 FIFA World Cup|
|FW||Duje Čop||1 February 1990||13||2||Standard Liège||2018 FIFA World Cup|
|FW||Ivan Santini||21 May 1989||2||0||Anderlecht||2018 FIFA World Cup|
Last updated: France vs. Croatia, 15 July 2018.
Source: Croatian Football Federation
|3||Eduardo da Silva||2004–2014||29||64|
Last updated: France vs. Croatia, 15 July 2018.
Source: Croatian Football Federation
|Manager||Croatia tenure||Pld||W||D||L||Win %||Major competitions|
|Miroslav Blažević||1994–2000||72||33||24||15||45.8|| 1996 European Championship – Quarter-final|
1998 World Cup – Third place
2000 European Championship – Failed to qualify
|Tomislav Ivić (c)[note 3]||1994||1||1||0||0||100.0||&|
|Mirko Jozić||2000–2002||18||9||6||3||50.0||2002 World Cup – Group stage|
|Otto Barić||2002–2004||24||11||8||5||45.8||2004 European Championship – Group stage|
|Zlatko Kranjčar||2004–2006||25||11||8||6||44.0||2006 World Cup – Group stage|
|Slaven Bilić||2006–2012||65||42||15||8||64.6|| 2008 European Championship – Quarter-final|
2010 World Cup – Failed to qualify
2012 European Championship – Group stage
|Niko Kovač||2013–2015||19||10||5||4||52.6||2014 World Cup – Group stage|
|Ante Čačić||2015–2017||25||15||6||4||60.0||2016 European Championship – Round of 16|
|Zlatko Dalić||2017–||14||8||3||3||57.1||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
Croatia enter the World Cup on Saturday, their Golden Generation beginning what is surely a last quest towards making an impact on the greatest stage.
The golden generation – with Modric, Rakitic and striker Mario Mandzukic as its pillars – have more often watched such efforts go up in flames.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Croatia national football team.|