Croatia national football team

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Croatia
Shirt badge/Association crest
Nickname(s) Vatreni (The Blazers)
Association Croatian Football Federation
Confederation UEFA (Europe)
Head coach Niko Kovač
Asst coach Robert Kovač
Goran Lacković
Vatroslav Mihačić
Captain Darijo Srna
Most caps Darijo Srna (111)
Top scorer Davor Šuker (45)
FIFA code CRO
FIFA ranking 20
Highest FIFA ranking 3 (January 1999)
Lowest FIFA ranking 125 (March 1994)
Elo ranking 23
Highest Elo ranking 4 (July 2013)
Lowest Elo ranking 26 (October 2002)
First colours
Second colours
First international
Unofficial
Croatia Croatia 2–1 United States 
(Zagreb, Croatia; 17 October 1990)
Official
 Australia 1–0 Croatia Croatia
(Melbourne, Australia; 5 July 1992)
Biggest win
Croatia Croatia 7–0 Australia 
(Zagreb, Croatia; 6 June 1998)
Croatia Croatia 7–0 Andorra 
(Zagreb, Croatia; 7 October 2006)
Biggest defeat
 England 5–1 Croatia Croatia
(London, England; 9 September 2009)
World Cup
Appearances 4 (First in 1998)
Best result Third place, 1998
European Championship
Appearances 4 (First in 1996)
Best result Quarterfinals, 1996, 2008

The Croatia men's national football team (Croatian: Hrvatska nogometna reprezentacija) represents Croatia in international football. The team is controlled by the Croatian Football Federation, the governing body for football in the country. A FIFA-recognised national side had previously represented the short-lived Banovina of Croatia and Independent State of Croatia in nineteen friendly matches between 1940 and 1944.[1] This team was dissolved in 1945 as Croatia became a constituent federal republic of SFR Yugoslavia. In the period between 1945 and 1990, Croatia did not field a separate team for competitive matches and Croatian players played for the Yugoslavia national football team.

The modern Croatian team was formed in 1991, shortly before Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia, and by 1993 had gained membership in FIFA and UEFA.[2] The team played their first competitive matches in the successful qualifying campaign for UEFA Euro 1996, leading to their first appearance at a major tournament.[1] In Croatia's FIFA World Cup debut in 1998 the team finished third and provided the tournament's top scorer, Davor Šuker. Since becoming eligible to compete in international tournaments, Croatia have missed only one World Cup and one European Championship.[3]

Most home matches are played at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, with some fixtures also taking place at the Poljud Stadium in Split or at other, smaller venues, such as Stadion Kantrida in Rijeka or Stadion Gradski vrt in Osijek, depending on the nature of the match. The team was undefeated in its first 36 home competitive matches at Maksimir, the run ending with a 2008 defeat to England.[1][4][5][6]

The team was named FIFA's "Best Mover of the Year" in 1994 and 1998, the only team along with Colombia to win the award more than once.[7][8] On admission to FIFA, Croatia was ranked 125th in the world; following the 1998 World Cup campaign, the side ranked third, making it the most volatile team in FIFA Rankings history.[9][10][11]

History[edit]

Pre-independence[edit]

The first recognised Croatian team played against Switzerland in 1940.

Football was introduced to Croatia by English expatriates in Rijeka and Županja in 1873; the official rulebook was recognised in 1896. By 1907 local clubs had been established in Croatia and a modern edition of the sport's laws was published.[12] FIFA records document a Croatian national team playing a full-length fixture against domestic opposition in 1907.[2] 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 (1945–90), though during periods of political upheaval, ethnically Croatian sides sometimes formed to play unofficial matches.[13] A hastily arranged national side, managed by Hugo Kinert, played a few private domestic matches in 1918–19.[14][15]

In 1940, Jozo Jakopić led an unofficial national team representing the Banovina of Croatia in four friendly matches: two against Switzerland and two against Hungary.[1] Croatia made their debut as an independently sanctioned team by defeating the Swiss 4–0 in Zagreb on 2 April 1940.[note 1] Following invasion by the Axis powers, the Croatian Football Federation became briefly active, joining FIFA on 17 July 1941, as the Independent State of Croatia. The national side, under the direction of Rudolf Hitrec, played fifteen friendly matches, fourteen as an official FIFA member.[2][16] Croatia's first recorded result as a FIFA associate was a 1–1 tie with Slovakia on 8 September in Bratislava.[1] Further matches were played until 1945 when the Independent State of Croatia was abolished and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia assumed control, thereby ending the team's affiliation with FIFA.[16]

From 1950 to 1956 another unofficial Croatian team was briefly active; it won games against Indonesia and a Yugoslav team playing as "Serbia".[15] The Yugoslavia squad at the 1956 Summer Olympics included Croatian footballers,[17] as did Yugoslavia in World Cup and European Championship tournaments up to 1990.[18][19]

Official formation[edit]

The last Yugoslav team to field a considerable Croatian contingent played against Sweden on 16 May 1991, days before Croatia's independence referendum.[20] Another Croatian team formed during this time; it played its first modern international game, against the United States, on 17 October 1991, at Maksimir Stadium. The game, which Croatia won 2–1,[21] was one of three games played under original manager Dražan Jerković. Croatia won twice more under his direction before Stanko Poklepović and Vlatko Marković each briefly headed the team. The match against the American side also marked the introduction of Croatia's national jersey. Designed with unique chequers, the initial kit was widely acknowledged for its originality.[22] Croatia was still considered part of Yugoslavia until its independence declaration on 8 October 1991, but this team already served as a de facto national team.[23][24]

In mid-1992 the team joined FIFA and UEFA. The team's performances before Croatia's independence were not recorded by FIFA, so they entered the World Rankings in 125th place.[3][11] Miroslav Blažević was appointed manager and oversaw the team's qualifying campaign for Euro 96, beginning with Croatia's first officially recognised post-independence victory: a 2–0 win over Estonia on 4 September 1994. Their first competitive defeat came on 11 June 1995, with a 1–0 away loss to Ukraine during the same qualifying campaign.[1] They finished on top of their qualifying group[25] and won FIFA's 1994 Best Mover of the Year award as their international rankings rose.[26]

"Golden Generation"[edit]

Goran Vlaović scored the team's first goal at a major tournament, a late winner against Turkey at the City Ground during Euro 96.[27] After their opening victory Croatia beat reigning champions Denmark 3–0,[28] a match in which striker Davor Šuker scored with a lob from 12 yards after receiving a long pass. He later described the goal as a favourite.[29] Croatia lost 3–0 to Portugal in their final group fixture[30] but still advanced to the knockout stages, where they were beaten 2:1 by eventual champions Germany in the quarter finals.[31]

Miroslav Blažević remained as manager during Croatia's 1998 World Cup qualifying campaign, which ended successfully with victory over Ukraine in the play-offs. 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.[32] Though regarded as underdogs, Croatia won 3–0, with goals from Robert Jarni, Goran Vlaović and Davor Šuker after Christian Wörns was sent off for Germany. Croatia 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 2–1. Croatia won third place by defeating the Netherlands, and Davor Šuker won the Golden Boot award for scoring the most goals in the tournament.[33] This was among the best debut performances in the World Cup, and as a result, Croatia were placed third in the January 1999 FIFA World Rankings, their highest ranking to date.[11][18] Croatia again won the Best Mover of the Year award in 1998.[8] For their achievements the team of the 1990s was dubbed the "Golden Generation".[34][35] Many of these players were also in the former Yugoslavia under-20 team which won the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship in Chile.

Despite these successes in their first two major competitions, Croatia finished third in their Euro 2000 qualifying group, behind Yugoslavia and Republic of Ireland, and thus failed to qualify.[36] Both fixtures between Croatia and Yugoslavia ended in draws; this fuelled the politically based tension between fans of the two teams, and political protests broke out during the fixture in Belgrade.[37] The return match in Zagreb ended in a 2–2 draw, preventing Croatia from qualifying for the tournament.[29]

Decline under Jozić and Barić in the early 2000s[edit]

Coach Blažević resigned in autumn 2000 and Mirko Jozić was appointed his successor. Despite the retirement of many "Golden Generation" players, Croatia were unbeaten in their qualifying matches for the 2002 World Cup. They commenced the tournament campaign with a narrow loss to Mexico before producing a surprise 2–1 victory over Euro 2000 finalists Italy in the next fixture.[38][39] At the tournament the team blamed the pressure of high expectations[40] for their final fixture loss to Ecuador which prevented their progression to the knockout stages.[41] Jozić resigned and was replaced in July 2002 by former Fenerbahçe coach Otto Barić, the team's first manager born outside the Balkans.[42][43]

Under Barić Croatia performed indifferently in the Euro 2004 qualifiers, reaching the tournament finals with a playoff 2-1 on aggregate win against Slovenia, with Dado Pršo's crucial goal in the second leg.[44] At the tournament Croatia drew 2–2 with reigning champions France[45] but lost to England and were eliminated in the group stage.[46] Barić's two-year contract ended in July 2004 and was not renewed.[47]

Kranjčar and Bilić's revival[edit]

Croatia vs. Brazil match at World Cup 2006

Former Croatia international Zlatko Kranjčar, appointed to succeed Barić in July 2004, oversaw Croatia's qualification for the 2006 World Cup without losing a match,[48][49] but was accused of nepotism for selecting his son Niko for the national squad.[50] Croatia lost their opening game to Brazil[51] and drew 0–0 with Japan after Darijo Srna missed a first-half penalty.[52] A 2–2 draw with Australia, in which three players were sent off, confirmed Croatia's elimination at the group stage.[53] The game was notable also for a mistake by referee Graham Poll, who awarded three yellow cards to Croatia's Josip Šimunić, after mistaking him for an Australian player due to his Australian accent.[note 2] Poll, heavily criticised for losing control of the match, retired from refereeing shortly afterwards.[54]

The HNS replaced Kranjčar with Slaven Bilić in July 2006.[55] Bilić appointed several younger players to the squad[56] and saw early success,[57][58][59] including a 2–0 friendly victory over Italy in his first match.[60] Having controversially suspended players Darijo Srna, Ivica Olić and Boško Balaban for missing a curfew after a turbofolk nightclub outing,[61] Bilić led the team in qualification for Euro 2008; they topped their group,[62] losing only one game (to Macedonia) and beating England twice, who consequently failed to qualify for the first time since 1984.[63]

Croatia vs. Austria match at Euro 2008 (Luka Modrić's penalty)

After primary striker Eduardo da Silva suffered a compound fracture while playing in the English Premier League, Bilić was forced to alter his tournament squad significantly[64][65] and recruited Nikola Kalinić and Nikola Pokrivač, neither of whom had yet played competitive games for the national team.[66][67] The team received criticism after poor attacking performances in warm-up games against Scotland and Moldova,[68][69] but at the tournament beat Austria, Germany, and Poland to reach the quarter finals with maximum group points for the first time in their tournament history.[70] Niko Kovač remained team captain at what was expected to be his final international tournament,[71] except in the final group fixture when Dario Šimić temporarily held the position.[72] Croatia's tournament run ended dramatically when they lost a penalty shoot-out to Turkey,[58][73][74] but secured the tournament record for fewest goals conceded (2), fewest games lost (0),[note 3] 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).[75]

Amidst speculation that he would quit,[76][77] manager Bilić renewed his contract, the first manager since Blažević to lead Croatia to successive tournaments.[78] Croatia were again drawn to play England in the qualification stages of the 2010 World Cup; the tie was voted the most anticipated of the campaign on FIFA.com.[79] After a home win against Kazakhstan[80] Croatia lost at home to England, ending a fourteen-year unbeaten home record.[5] The team was eventually burdened with a number of key injuries and went on to suffer their heaviest defeat ever, losing 5-1 to England at Wembley Stadium. Although Croatia defeated Kazakhstan in their final qualifying fixture, they were ultimately eliminated after Ukraine, who had previously defeated group leaders England, beat Andorra to gain 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.

Euro 2012; Bilić departs[edit]

Croatia vs. Italy match at UEFA Euro 2012

Despite heavy loss of form, which also saw the team fall outside the top 10 in the FIFA rankings, Croatia were placed in the top tier of teams for the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying draw; the Croatian republic was previously a candidate to co-host the tournament with Hungary which would have allowed the team to qualify automatically. Instead, it was chosen to be played in Poland and Ukraine, Croatia ultimately competed in Group F for qualifying,[81] and, despite being top-seeds, only finished second in the group behind Greece, settling for a play-off draw against Euro 2008 rivals Turkey. The buildup towards the matches garnered much global and domestic media attention, with Bilic himself referring the tie as a slight opportunity for revenge. 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 at Turkey's expense. In the proceeding group-stage draw for the tournament, Croatia were placed in pot three, 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 his resignation from the national team. The team was once again garnished by many key injury concerns at the tournament, with long-standing forward Ivica Olić and defender Dejan Lovren missing out on a place in the squad. The team concluded their tournament preparations with friendly fixtures against Estonia and Norway.

Croatia opened their tournament 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. The team ultimately faced a complicated scenario in the buildup to their final group game against reigning champions Spain. UEFA's previous alteration of the tie-breaking criteria (used when two or more teams finish with an equal number of points) forced the national team to retain at least a point in their final game while also scoring at least once to match Italy's head-to-head record against Spain. Croatia ultimately suffered a 1-0 defeat. Moments before Jesus Navas scored the game's only goal, Vedran Ćorluka was the victim of a neck-tie tackle by Spain defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets on a corner kick which removed Ćorluka from a goal scoring opportunity in the penalty box. The late Spanish goal, along with Italy's victory over The Republic of Ireland, forced Croatia to exit the tournament in the group stage. However, the team subsequently garnered widespread domestic praise for their tournament performance, and were greeted by a large crowd upon their return. Upon his formal departure, Bilić was also praised for his long-standing service to the national side. Domestic media outlet Jutarnji List labelled him as Croatia's only manager to depart on such positive terms and credited him for his strong revival of the national side during his six-year tenure.[82]

2012–present; Šuker takes over as president[edit]

After the Euro, The Croatian Football Federation (HNS) has chosen a new president, with Croatia's all-time top goalscorer Davor Šuker replacing Vlatko Marković. Following an official meeting in Zagreb, the national side was chosen to be managed by another of its former defenders and analyst of the team's matches, Igor Štimac. However, Štimac's reign was deemed unsuccessful, lasting only a year, and he was replaced by former national team captain, Niko Kovač, who managed the U21 team at the time.

Tournament records[edit]

World Cup record[edit]

Croatia qualified for and competed in three consecutive World Cup finals between 1998 and 2006, but failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after finishing 3rd in Group 6 of their Qualification Group 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.[83] The nation's best performance came in their first World Cup where they finished third. In their following two World Cup campaigns they were eliminated after finishing third in their groups.

Year Round Position Matches Wins Draws Losses GF GA
1930 to 1990 Competed as part of Yugoslavia - - - - - - -
United States 1994 Could not enter - - - - - - -
France 1998 Third Place 3 7 5 0 2 11 5
South Korea/Japan 2002 Group Stage 23 3 1 0 2 2 3
Germany 2006 Group Stage 22 3 0 2 1 2 3
South Africa 2010 Did not qualify - - - - - - -
Brazil 2014 Qualified - - - - - - -
Total 4/5 - 13 6 2 5 15 11

UEFA Euro record[edit]

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.[84]

UEFA European Championship record
Year Round Position Pld W D L GF GA Squads
England 1996 Quarter-Finals 7th 4 2 0 2 5 5 Squad
BelgiumNetherlands 2000 Did Not Qualify
Portugal 2004 Group Stage 13th 3 0 2 1 4 6 Squad
AustriaSwitzerland 2008 Quarter-Finals 5th 4 3 1 0 5 2 Squad
PolandUkraine 2012 Group Stage 10th 3 1 1 1 4 3 Squad
Total 4/5 - 14 6 4 4 18 16

Minor tournaments[edit]

Year Round Position Matches Wins Draws Losses GF GA
Morocco 1996 King Hassan II Tournament Winners 1 2 0 2 0 3 3
Japan 1997 Kirin Cup Group stage 2 2 0 1 1 4 5
South Korea 1999 Korea Cup Winners 1 3 1 2 0 5 4
Hong Kong 2006 Carlsberg Cup Third place 3 2 1 0 1 4 2
Total - 2 Titles 9 2 5 2 16 14

Recent results and forthcoming fixtures[edit]

2012[edit]

2013[edit]

2014[edit]

Players[edit]

Current squad[edit]

The following is the final list of players for the friendly match against Switzerland, which took place on March 5, 2014.
Caps, goals and player numbers correct as of 5 March 2014.
Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

0#0 Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club
1 1GK Stipe Pletikosa (1979-01-08) 8 January 1979 (age 35) 109 0 Russia Rostov
23 1GK Danijel Subašić (1984-10-27) 27 October 1984 (age 29) 6 0 Monaco Monaco
11 2DF Darijo Srna (c) (1982-05-01) 1 May 1982 (age 31) 111 21 Ukraine Shakhtar Donetsk
5 2DF Vedran Ćorluka (1986-02-05) 5 February 1986 (age 28) 71 4 Russia Lokomotiv Moscow
2 2DF Ivan Strinić (1987-07-17) 17 July 1987 (age 26) 32 0 Ukraine Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
6 2DF Dejan Lovren (1989-07-05) 5 July 1989 (age 24) 23 2 England Southampton
21 2DF Domagoj Vida (1989-04-29) 29 April 1989 (age 24) 22 1 Ukraine Dynamo Kyiv
13 2DF Gordon Schildenfeld (1985-03-18) 18 March 1985 (age 29) 20 0 Greece Panathinaikos
n/a 2DF Šime Vrsaljko (1992-01-10) 10 January 1992 (age 22) 5 0 Italy Genoa
15 2DF Hrvoje Milić (1989-05-10) 10 May 1989 (age 24) 4 0 Russia Rostov
10 3MF Luka Modrić (1985-09-09) 9 September 1985 (age 28) 73 8 Spain Real Madrid
7 3MF Ivan Rakitić (1988-03-10) 10 March 1988 (age 26) 60 9 Spain Sevilla
8 3MF Ognjen Vukojević (1983-12-20) 20 December 1983 (age 30) 54 4 Ukraine Dynamo Kyiv
3 3MF Danijel Pranjić (1981-12-02) 2 December 1981 (age 32) 48 0 Greece Panathinaikos
4 3MF Ivan Perišić (1989-02-02) 2 February 1989 (age 25) 27 1 Germany Wolfsburg
20 3MF Mateo Kovačić (1994-05-06) 6 May 1994 (age 19) 8 0 Italy Internazionale
14 3MF Mate Maleš (1989-03-11) 11 March 1989 (age 25) 1 0 Croatia Rijeka
18 4FW Ivica Olić (1979-09-14) 14 September 1979 (age 34) 90 18 Germany Wolfsburg
22 4FW Eduardo (1983-02-25) 25 February 1983 (age 31) 62 29 Ukraine Shakhtar Donetsk
17 4FW Mario Mandžukić (1986-05-21) 21 May 1986 (age 27) 48 13 Germany Bayern Munich
9 4FW Nikica Jelavić (1985-08-27) 27 August 1985 (age 28) 32 5 England Hull City
n/a 4FW Ante Rebić (1993-09-21) 21 September 1993 (age 20) 3 1 Italy Fiorentina

Recent callups[edit]

The following players have also been called up to the Croatia squad in the last 12 months and were not named in the above squad list, but are still eligible for selection.

Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club Latest call-up
GK Lovre Kalinić (1990-04-03) 3 April 1990 (age 24) 0 0 Croatia Hajduk Split v.  Iceland, 19 November 2013
GK Dario Krešić (1984-01-11) 11 January 1984 (age 30) 1 0 Germany Mainz 05 v.  Scotland, 15 October 2013
GK Ivan Vargić (1987-03-15) 15 March 1987 (age 27) 0 0 Croatia Rijeka v.  Scotland, 15 October 2013
GK Antonio Ježina (1989-06-05) 5 June 1989 (age 24) 1 0 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb v.  South Korea, 10 September 2013
GK Dominik Picak (1992-02-12) 12 February 1992 (age 22) 0 0 Croatia Slaven Belupo v.  Liechtenstein, 14 August 2013
DF Igor Bubnjić (1992-07-17) 17 July 1992 (age 21) 2 0 Italy Udinese v.   Switzerland, 5 March 2014 (withdrew)
DF Josip Šimunić (1978-02-18) 18 February 1978 (age 36) 105 3 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb v.  Iceland, 19 November 2013
DF Josip Pivarić (1989-01-30) 30 January 1989 (age 25) 2 0 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb v.  Scotland, 15 October 2013
DF Mario Maloča (1989-05-04) 4 May 1989 (age 24) 1 0 Croatia Hajduk Split v.  Scotland, 15 October 2013
MF Niko Kranjčar (1984-08-13) 13 August 1984 (age 29) 81 16 England Queens Park Rangers v.   Switzerland, 5 March 2014 (withdrew)
MF Milan Badelj (1989-02-25) 25 February 1989 (age 25) 9 1 Germany Hamburg v.   Switzerland, 5 March 2014 (withdrew)
MF Ivo Iličević (1986-09-14) 14 September 1986 (age 27) 8 1 Germany Hamburg v.   Switzerland, 5 March 2014 (withdrew)
MF Arijan Ademi (1991-05-29) 29 May 1991 (age 22) 1 0 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb v.  Scotland, 15 October 2013
MF Alen Halilović (1996-06-18) 18 June 1996 (age 17) 3 0 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb v.  Belgium, 11 October 2013
MF Marin Tomasov (1987-08-31) 31 August 1987 (age 26) 1 0 Germany 1860 Munich v.  South Korea, 10 September 2013
MF Sammir (1987-04-23) 23 April 1987 (age 27) 4 0 Spain Getafe v.  Portugal, 10 June 2013
FW Leon Benko (1983-11-11) 11 November 1983 (age 30) 4 0 China Dalian Aerbin v.   Switzerland, 5 March 2014 (withdrew)
FW Nikola Kalinić (1988-01-05) 5 January 1988 (age 26) 20 6 Ukraine Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk v.  Scotland, 15 October 2013

Previous squads[edit]

Statistics[edit]

Managers[edit]

Before Croatia's independence distinct Croatian football federations and teams were occasionally formed separately from the official Yugoslavian organisations. Ivo Kraljević served as the manager of the initial federation, established in 1939, and organised non-sanctioned matches played by unofficial national squads up to 1956.[16] These temporary sides, playing non-competitive fixtures, were led by seven different managers.[note 4]

Statistically, Dražan Jerković and Vlatko Marković are the most successful managers in Croatia's history; they both recorded victories in each of their few games in charge. Miroslav Blažević, who was the team's first official manager, holds the highest number of competitive victories, having led Croatia to their best performances at major international tournaments.

Name Tenure Played Won Drawn Lost Win % Points per game[note 5] Major tournaments
Croatia Jerković, DražanDražan Jerković 1990–1991 3 3 0 0 100.00 3.00
Croatia Poklepović, StankoStanko Poklepović 1992 4 1 1 2 25.00 1.00
Croatia Marković, VlatkoVlatko Marković 1993 1 1 0 0 100.00 3.00
CroatiaBosnia and Herzegovina Blažević, MiroslavMiroslav Blažević 1994–2000 72 33 24 15 45.83 1.71 1996 Euro – Quarter-final
1998 World Cup – Third place
Croatia Ivić, TomislavTomislav Ivić (caretaker)[note 6] 1994 1 1 0 0 100.00 3.00
Croatia Jozić, MirkoMirko Jozić 2000–2002 18 9 6 3 50.00 1.83 2002 World Cup – Group stage
Croatia Barić, OttoOtto Barić 2002–2004 24 11 8 5 45.83 1.70 2004 Euro – Group stage
Croatia Kranjčar, ZlatkoZlatko Kranjčar 2004–2006 25 11 8 6 44.00 1.64 2006 World Cup – Group stage
Croatia Bilić, SlavenSlaven Bilić 2006–2012 65 42 15 8 64.62 2.17 2008 Euro – Quarter-final
2012 Euro – Group stage
Croatia Štimac, IgorIgor Štimac 2012–2013 15 8 2 5 53.33 1.73
Croatia Kovač, NikoNiko Kovač 2013– 3 1 2 0 33.33 1.66
Totals 231 121 66 44 52.38 1.86
Last updated: Croatia vs. Switzerland, 5 March 2014. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

Most appearances[edit]

# Name Clubs[note 7] Croatia career Caps Goals
1 Darijo Srna Hajduk Split, Shakhtar Donetsk 2002– 111 21
2 Stipe Pletikosa Hajduk Split, Shakhtar Donetsk, Spartak Moscow
Tottenham Hotspur, Rostov
1999– 109 0
3 Josip Šimunić Hertha Berlin, Hoffenheim, Dinamo Zagreb 2001– 105 3
4 Dario Šimić Dinamo Zagreb, Internazionale, Milan, AS Monaco 1996–2008 100 3
5 Ivica Olić NK Zagreb, Dinamo Zagreb, CSKA Moscow,
Hamburger SV, Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg
2002– 90 18
6 Robert Kovač Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich,
Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Dinamo Zagreb
1999–2009 84 0
7 Niko Kovač Bayer Leverkusen, HSV, Bayern Munich,
Hertha Berlin, Red Bull Salzburg
1996–2008 83 14
8 Robert Jarni Hajduk Split, Bari, Torino, Juventus, Real Betis,
Real Madrid, Las Palmas, Panathinaikos
1991–2002 81 1
Niko Kranjčar Dinamo Zagreb, Hajduk Split, Portsmouth,
Tottenham Hotspur, Dynamo Kyiv, Queens Park Rangers
2004– 81 16
10 Luka Modrić Dinamo Zagreb, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid 2006– 73 8
Last updated: Croatia vs. Switzerland, 5 March 2014. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

Top goalscorers[edit]

# Name Croatia career Goals Caps
1 Davor Šuker[29] 1991–2002 45 69
2 Eduardo da Silva 2004– 29 62
3 Darijo Srna 2002– 21 111
4 Ivica Olić 2002– 18 90
5 Niko Kranjčar 2004– 16 81
6 Goran Vlaović 1992–2002 15 52
7 Niko Kovač 1996–2008 14 83
8 Mladen Petrić 2001– 13 45
Mario Mandžukić 2007– 13 48
10 Zvonimir Boban 1991–1999 12 51
Ivan Klasnić 2004– 12 41
Last updated: Croatia vs. Switzerland, 5 March 2014. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

1940s participants[edit]

From 1940 to 1944 FIFA affiliated national teams played under the banner of the "Independent State of Croatia" nineteen friendly matches, of which it won nine, drew four and lost six. Twelve players scored for the team during this period.

# Name Croatia career Goals Caps Average
1 Franjo Wölfl 1940–1944 13 18 0.72
2 Zvonimir Cimermančić 1940–1944 8 17 0.47
3 August Lešnik 1940–1944 6 9 0.66
=4 Milan Antolković 1940–1943 3 9 0.33
=4 Branko Pleše 1941–1944 3 13 0.23
=6 Slavko Pavletić 1941–1942 2 4 0.50
=6 Mirko Kokotović 1940–1944 2 15 0.13
=8 Slavko Beda 1941 1 1 1.00
=8 Antun Lokošek 1944 1 1 1.00
=8 Zvonko Jazbec 1940 1 3 0.33
=8 Florijan Matekalo 1940 1 4 0.25
=8 Ratko Kacijan 1940–1943 1 10 0.10

Records[edit]

Darijo Srna, current captain (2008–present) and all-time most capped player.

Dario Šimić was Croatia's first player to reach 100 appearances, doing so before his retirement in 2008. This allowed him to surpass Robert Jarni's previous record of 81 appearances.[85][86][87] On 6 February 2013, Darijo Srna, Josip Simunic and Stipe Pletikosa each also played their 100th cap for Croatia in the 4-0 friendly victory over South Korea in London. The trio went on to set a new join-record of 101 appearances for the national team on 22 March 2013 in a World Cup qualifying victory against Serbia.

With 45 goals scored, Davor Šuker is Croatia's highest-scoring player. He was named Croatia's "Golden Player" at the UEFA jubilee celebration in 2004 in recognition of this achievement.[29] Eduardo da Silva is in a distant second position with 29 goals (as of October 2013).[88] Mladen Petrić holds the national team record for goals in a single match, having scored four times during Croatia's 7–0 home victory over Andorra on 7 October 2006.[89]

The national team's joint record for highest-scoring victory comes from two 7–0 results, over Andorra in 2006 and Australia in 1998. Croatia's worst defeat is also a joint record, the Independent State of Croatia side having twice lost 5–1 defeats to Germany in the 1940s. In the modern era Croatia lost 4–1 to Slovakia in a 1994 friendly and 3–0 to Portugal at Euro 96. The worst defeat in the modern period was the 5–1 loss to England in the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.[1]

Hierarchy[edit]

The Croatian team is a fully licensed member of FIFA and UEFA. FIFA governs Croatia's participation in global international tournaments including the FIFA World Cup;[90] UEFA presides over European tournaments.[91]

The team is also governed by the Croatian Football Federation, which governs domestic football under FIFA and UEFA affiliation. The federation is led by Davor Šuker, who represents the team in conferences. The federation (abbreviated HNS) governs player registration and selects the team coaching staff and pays players' salaries. Head coach selects and organises national squad players and enforces team policies.[92]

Stadium[edit]

Most home matches take place at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb. The venue, built 1912 and refurbished in 1997, is named after the surrounding neighbourhood of Maksimir.[93] The stadium has hosted national games since Croatia's competitive home debut against Lithuania; it also hosted the Croatian teams' home matches during World War II.[1] The football federation and the Croatian government have agreed further improvements (among them an increase in the current forty-thousand seating capacity) that would make Maksimir the most expensive football stadium in the world.[93][94] However, in 2008, UEFA threatened to limit the number of fans allowed to attend home games after crowd discipline problems during the European Championships.[95] Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić declined the final renovation plans in 2008, citing high construction costs; as of December 2008 the renovations are postponed.[96]

Home matches were occasionally played at other venues. The Poljud Stadium in Split hosted several qualifying fixtures for Euro 1996 and the 1998 World Cup. Ever since the first match in 1995 against Italy which ended 1-1, Croatia was unable to win an official FIFA-recognised match at Poljud. That fact was known amongst the Croatian public as "Poljud curse".[97] The unusual curse was finally broken in June 2011 with a 2-1 win against Georgia. The team also played qualifying matches at Stadion Kantrida in Rijeka, which they are unbeaten at, the Gradski vrt stadium in Osijek and the Stadion Anđelko Herjavec stadium in Varaždin.

Home venues record[edit]

Fans at Poljud stadium

Since Croatia's first fixture (17 October 1990, vs. United States) they have played home games at nine stadiums.

Venue City Played Won Drawn Lost GF GA Points per game
Stadion Maksimir Zagreb 54 35 14 5 110 35 2.08
Stadion Kantrida Rijeka 11 10 1 0 19 4 2.81
Stadion Poljud Split 11 1 6 4 11 17 0.82
Stadion Gradski vrt Osijek 7 5 2 0 18 5 2.43
Stadion Anđelko Herjavec Varaždin 6 4 2 0 12 3 2.33
Stadion Aldo Drosina Pula 3 2 0 1 8 4 2.00
Stadion Kranjčevićeva Zagreb 1 1 0 0 3 0 3.00
Stadion Šubićevac Šibenik 1 0 1 0 2 2 1.00
Stadion HNK Cibalia Vinkovci 1 1 0 0 5 0 3.00
Totals 95 59 26 10 188 70 2.06
Last updated: Croatia vs. Iceland, 19 November 2013. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

Team image[edit]

Names[edit]

Under the official FIFA Trigramme the team’s name is abbreviated as CRO; this acronym is used to identify the team in FIFA and media.[98] The team is also identified under the International Organization for Standardization country code for Croatia, HRV.[99] "Croatia national football team" can be translated into Croatian as "Hrvatska nogometna reprezentacija" (pronounced [xř̩ʋaːtskaː noːɡoːmetnaː reprezentaːtsijaː]). Among the team's nicknames are Vatreni ("The Blazers") and, more recently, "Bilić Boys" (from the name of the coach, Slaven Bilić).[100]

Jersey[edit]

Croatia's initial jersey was designed in 1991 by Miroslav Šutej, who also designed the nation's coat of arms. Although slightly altered by Lotto (the 1998 jersey was a white jersey with the chequers on the right side, like a flying flag) and Nike since its original release, the jersey has remained similar as a national identity; the chequered design is also used to represent other Croatian sports teams and athletes.[22]

Croatia's chequered kit

Kit History[edit]

First Chequered Kit 1990
1996–1997 Home
1998–2000 Home
2002–2004 Home
2004–2006 Home
2006–2008 Home
2008–2010 Home
2010–2012 Home
2012–2014 Home
First Uniform 1940
1996–1997 Away
1998–2000 Away
2002–2004 Away
2004–2006 Away
2006–2008 Away
2008–2010 Away
2010–2012 Away
2012–2014 Away

Training[edit]

Croatia's traditional training ground is located in Čatež, Slovenia, where the team prepares for all upcoming matches. However, the HNS has announced the production of a new training ground located in Tuhelj to accommodate further training improvements.[101]

Supporters[edit]

Prominent among Croatia's supporters are supporters from Slavonija region especially during last three big tournaments. Also big supporting base is given by followers of Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb, the two best-supported clubs in the Croatian domestic league, the Prva HNL.[102] The clubs' ultra-style supporter groups, the Bad Blue Boys of Zagreb and The Torcida from Split, have both been associated with hooliganism,[103][104] though violence between the two is not reported at international games. Major support for Croatia national team comes from Croats living in Bosnia & Herzegovina, followers of Mostar football club HŠK Zrinjski Mostar, known as Ultras Zrinjski being one of the most recognised supporters of the Croatia national team.[105] Croatia's supporters are collectively affiliated with Uvijek Vjerni (translated as 'Always Faithful'), which is the national team's official fan association aiming to bring together all fans around the world.[106]

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

Nonetheless, fan behaviour at international games has led to international sanction against the side. Croatia was penalised and threatened with expulsion from UEFA for racist behaviour by fans at Euro 2004[107] On other occasions Croatia fans defied security regulations. During the 2006 World Cup a fan evaded security at a German venue and approached Croatian players on the field; he was arrested for trespassing.[108] During a friendly match against Italy in Livorno, a small group of Croatian fans stood in a swastika formation in response to Italians fans waving communist flags; UEFA penalised the Croatian football federation for the incident.[107][109] Similar events occurred at Euro 2008; UEFA penalised Croatia for a display of racist banners against Turkey[110] and FIFA fined the Croatian football federation for racial abuse of England striker Emile Heskey on 10 September 2008.[111]

Croatia supporters at UEFA Euro 2012

Croatia fans often use flares in both domestic league derby matches and in international games,[112][113][114] a practice which, according to agent Igor Štimac and midfielder Luka Modrić, motivates the Croatian team.[115][116] The practice is banned at most international games and Croatia fans have been reprimanded and had devices confiscated by UEFA and FIFA security staff.[117] Croatia fans also clashed with Turkish Muslims during a Euro 2008 game against Turkey. Security was tightened when Croats and Turks gathered in Vienna shortly before the quarter final game of the tournament; after the match, Croatian fans resisted police and brawled with Turkish fans.[118]

Tensions with fans of sides from other former Yugoslav states have also manifested at Croatia games. Croatia fans in the crowd at a 3 June 1990, game between Yugoslavia and the Netherlands booed the Yugoslavian national anthem and players and cheered for the Dutch side instead.[119] Maksimir Stadium was the scene of a riot between Croat and Serb fans at a Dinamo Zagreb – Red Star Belgrade game following the parliamentary election the same year.[120] During the 2006 World Cup brawls broke out between Bosniaks and Croats in Mostar.[121]

Croatia's problems with its supporters continued throughout the opening round of the Euro 2012 competition as the team was cited for fan behaviour that included the display of racist banners and symbols, racist chants, and setting off and throwing fireworks during a match. In addition, the disciplinary case initiated by FIFA after the team's group match versus Spain includes a review of improper conduct by players who received six yellow cards during the contest.[122]

Media and public relations[edit]

Football is Croatia's most popular team sport.[123] By competing separately in both official and unofficial matches, the national team strengthened the unity of Croatian culture, an accomplishment which the predominant Catholic Church and economy were criticised for failing.[124] After Croatia’s success at the 1998 World Cup, Tuđman declared that "football victories shape a nation’s identity as much as wars".[124] American politician and diplomat Strobe Talbott predicted Croatia’s growth in football to influence that of the nation itself.[125] The national team were greeted by 100,000 residents from all around the country after their return from the World Cup where they placed third.

Though the relationship between the team and any political party has waned since Tuđman's death in 1999,[126] the team (and football) remain patriotic traditions in Croatia as in the rest of Europe.[127]

The team also received constant media attention; their games are regularly broadcast live on HRT 2 also like in the rest of Europe.[128] 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.[129][130] Because of Bilić's enthusiasm,[131][132] the team was dubbed "Bilić's Boys".[100] 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 are many), "Samo je Jedno" (There is but one thing [in my life]), "Moj Dom je Hrvatska" (My Home is Croatia), "Srce Vatreno" (Heart of Fire), and "Hrvatska je Prvak Svijeta" (Croatia[ns] are world champions).[note 8]

All-time team record[edit]

The following tables show Croatia's all-time international record, correct as of 5 March 2014.[133][134]

*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks.

Modern Croatian team (1991–present)[edit]

Pre-independence team (1940–1944, 1950, 1956)[edit]

For explanation see: Croatia national football team games – 1940s, Pre-independence period (above), Croatia – List of international matches, Detailed list of all Croatia's games.

All fixtures were friendly.

Opponents Pld W D L GF GA GD
 Bulgaria 1 1 0 0 6 0 +6
 Germany 3 0 0 3 2 12 −10
 Hungary 3 0 2 1 2 3 −1
 Indonesia 1 1 0 0 5 2 +3
 Italy 1 0 0 1 0 4 −4
 Romania 1 0 1 0 2 2 0
 Slovakia 7 6 1 0 25 9 +16
  Switzerland 3 2 0 1 5 1 +4
Total 20 10 4 6 47 33 +14

Honours[edit]

Friendly titles[edit]

Other awards[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  131. ^ Atkin, John (21 June 2008). "Bilić's touchline waltz ends with fall". uefa.com. Union of European Football Associations (UEFA.com). Retrieved 2014-03-24. 
  132. ^ "Bilic: Klasnic story a fairytale". Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA.com). 16 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-13. 
  133. ^ "Opponent Search". Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  134. ^ "Sum of plays and results from 1990 to 2012". HNS-CFF.hr. 16 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Previous matches played by unofficial and temporary Croatian teams were still considered as a part of Yugoslavia. However, the side representing the Banovina of Croatia was separately recognised as the temporary puppet state was momentarily separated from Yugoslavia.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ The following organisers led the national team as 'managers':
  5. ^ Calculated by multiplying wins by three, plus draws, divided by games played.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Only clubs played for while receiving caps are listed.
  8. ^ "Here are the best, and the worst of the Croatian Football Anthems." Football anthems refer to unofficial fan songs preferred by supporters, which can be found at 'BecomeaCroatiafan.com'. Croatian football anthems.

Books[edit]

  • Ramet. P, Sabrina (2005). Thinking about Yugoslavia. Cambridge University. ISBN 0-521-85151-3. 
  • Klemenčić, Mladen (2004). Nogometni leksikon. Miroslav Krleža lexicographic institute. ISBN 953-6036-84-3. 
  • Perica, Vjekoslav (2002). Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States. Oxford US. ISBN 0-19-517429-1. 
  • Foster, Jane (2004). Footprint Croatia. Footprint Travel Guides. ISBN 1-903471-79-6. 
  • Bellamy. J, Alex (2003). The Formation of Croatian National Identity. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-6502-X. 
  • Giulianotti, Richard (1997). Entering the Field: New Perspectives on World Football. Berg Publishers. ISBN 1-85973-198-8. 

External links[edit]