FIFA World Cup: 5 things to know about Croatia
With the World Cup coming to an end, the mercurial rise of this Croatian team has come as a beautiful surprise for football fans. The current squad has been dubbed as Croatia's 'golden generation' of footballers and they did not disappoint. Here are five interesting facts about Croatia's football team, their stars, and the country's history in previous editions of the tournament.
Before making their way to 2018 final, Croatia's greatest World Cup achievement was the 3rd place finish in the 1998 edition in France. Notably, it was also their first World Cup appearance. Interestingly, France knocked them out in the semis and they would be looking to avenge their defeat, this term. Their lowest point came in 2010, when they didn't qualify for World Cup.
The Real Madrid player was only six, when his hometown of Modrici was dragged into a civil war. Modric's home was burned to the ground. In December 1991, the Serbian army stormed through his village, executing his grandfather among others. Football helped him forget his pain, with his supportive family sending him to a sporting academy from an early age. A true champion indeed!
The Croatian goal-keeper Danijel Subasic recalls bombs being dropped on Zadar when he was a child. The other two star performers of the team, Rakitic and Mandzukic spent their childhood days as refugees in Switzerland and Germany respectively. These hard times, which this team has witnessed as youngsters, helped mould them into strong men who are ably carrying their country on their shoulders.
Croatia's road to the 2018 FIFA World Cup was not smooth as they came second in their qualifying group and thus had to qualify through the play-offs. In the play-offs, Croatia thrashed Greece 4-1 on aggregate. Mandzukic became the second highest goal-scorer of their group, netting 5 goals in as many matches. However, in the World Cup, they won all three group matches.
The defensive mid-fielder, Milan Badelj, started his career at Dinamo Zagreb and went on to play for Hamburg SV and finally for Fiorentina in 2014. Making his international debut in 2010, Badelj was a part of the Croatian squad in the 2014 World Cup, as well as the 2012 and 2016 Euros. In the current tournament, he helped his team by scoring against Iceland.