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From 1998 to 2018: A look at Croatia’s overall FIFA World Cup journey

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Wonderful! This is what everyone is saying about the Croatia’s journey in the FIFA World Cup 2018. Croatia has entered the final of FIFA World Cup 2018 and is going to face France tomorrow at Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital Moscow.

The tournament, which is being called as the World Cup of the underdogs, saw teams like Croatia, Belgium, Sweden and Russia qualifying for quarterfinals. Also, major teams like Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Argentina were out of the tournament in the round of 16 itself.

Croatia’s journey in the FIFA World Cup 2018 tournament has been magnificent as they have defeated every team it faced and remained unbeatable. Croatia’s outstanding performance started with the first match itself against Nigeria, where the former won by 2-0. After that, Croatia were unstoppable. They even defeated mighty Argentina 3-0 in the second match of group stage games, this win over Argentina revealed the strength of Croatian team to the world. They even ended their group match with a victory over Iceland by 2-1, thereby topping the group with 9 points.


Croatia’s impeccable performance continued after group stage too, and they defeated Denmark in the round of 16 and Russia in the Quarter-finals, however, they managed a close win in both matches as they won during penalties. This erupted little doubts over their victory in next match which was semi-final against England, but Croatia cleared everyone’s doubt and won by 2-1 in extra time.

Now, the whole world is amazed by the Croatia’s brilliant performance, which can be called as one of the best performances ever by an underdog team in a World Cup tournament. This is also a great achievement for Croatia at the international stage, a European nation which was formed in the year 1991, after the breakup of State of Yugoslavia into six independent countries.

 

 

But this is not the first time Croatia has amazed everyone with their performance in a World Cup tournament. Croatia’s brilliance in football was visible since the first time they qualified for World Cup. The year was 1998, and Croatia stunned everyone by entering the semi-finals.

Croatia was unable to qualify for FIFA World Cup in 1994, but they ensured their participation in FIFA World Cup 1998, which was held in France. Croatia was placed in group H along with Argentina, Jamaica and Japan. After defeating Jamaica in the first match by 3-1 and Japan by 1-0 in the second match, Croatia entered the Round of 16 even before their third group match against Argentina. They finished second in the group with 6 points, after losing to Argentina in the third group match by 1-0.

In the ‘Round of 16’, Croatia outclassed Romania by 1-0, owing to goal scored by Davor Šuker just after the half-time, when Croatia was awarded a penalty at the 47th minute. The quarter-final was spectacular for Croatia, as they defeated Germany by 3-0. Robert Jarni, Goran Vlaović and Davor Šuker scored goals in the 48th, 80th and 85th minute respectively, to send Germany out of the tournament. Unfortunately, Croatia could not overcome the hosts France in the semi-final, and lost the match 2-1. Although Davor Šuker scored the first goal of the match in the 46th minute, France was able to outclass Croatia due to two amazing goals by Lilian Thuram, who scored goals in 47th and 70th minute.

At the end, Croatia retained their magic at the 1998 World Cup by defeating Holland the third place match by 2-1.  Davor Šuker was the star of Croatian team who scored a total of 6 goals during the World Cup. At present, he is the president of the Croatian Football Federation. Interestingly, it can be said that at the present World Cup, Croatia has avenged their 1998 group stage defeat to Argentina, and they also have a nice chance to avenge their 1998 semi-final defeat to France.

In the 2002 World cup, which was held in South Korea and Japan, Croatia qualified but was eliminated in the group stage itself. Croatia lost to Mexico in the first match by 1-0, but managed to defeat Italy in the second match by 2-1. In the final match, Croatia lost to Ecuador by 1-0, thereby ending their chance to pass on to the next round.

Croatia faced a similar fate in the next World Cup in 2006, and they were out in the first round after they lost to Brazil in the first match by 1-0, and drew with Japan and Australia with 0-0 and 2-2 in the next match. They faced even worst luck in 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where they were not even able to qualify for the tournament.

However, Croatia rebooted their journey in World Cup tournament after by qualifying the for 2014 World Cup, but again failed to create an astonishing presence and were out in the first round itself. Although Croatia lost to Brazil in the first match by 3-1 in group stage, they defeated Cameroon in the next match by huge margin of 4-0 to keep their playing hopes alive. But they lost to Mexico in the final group match by 3-1, and were eventually out of the tournament.

But the present World Cup tournament is an all different story for Croatia team, and they have dominated since the start. They have the same enthusiasm which they showed in their first World Cup in 1998. In 1998 World Cup, France was the team who kicked Croatia out of the tournament and clinched the title, and in 2018 World Cup, Croatia has a superb chance to outclass France in the finals and clinch the title and avenge their defeat in 1998. Will Croatia’s class performance repeat in the finals against France? Well, we need to wait and watch the final match for that.

Croatia

Moscow: Croatia’s team celebrates with fans after winning the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. AP/PTI