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Croatia national football team

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This article is about the men's team. For the women's team, see Croatia women's national football team.
Croatia
Nickname(s) Vatreni (The Blazers)
Association Croatian Football Federation
Confederation UEFA (Europe)
Head coach Ante Čačić
Captain Luka Modrić
Most caps Darijo Srna (134)
Top scorer Davor Šuker (45)
FIFA code CRO[1]
First colours
Second colours
FIFA ranking
Current 14 Increase 1 (15 September 2016)
Highest 3 (January 1999)
Lowest 125 (March 1994)
Elo ranking
Current 16 Steady (4 August 2016)
Highest 5 (July 1998)
Lowest 26 (October 2002)
First international
 Croatia 4–0 Switzerland  
(Zagreb, Croatia; 2 April 1940)[2]
as Croatia
 Croatia 2–1 United States 
(Zagreb, Croatia; 17 October 1990)[2]
Biggest win
 Croatia 10–0 San Marino 
(Rijeka, Croatia; 4 June 2016)
Biggest defeat
 England 5–1 Croatia 
(London, England; 9 September 2009)
World Cup
Appearances 4 (First in 1998)
Best result Third, 1998
European Championship
Appearances 5 (First in 1996)
Best result Quarterfinals, 1996, 2008

The Croatia national football team (Croatian: Hrvatska nogometna reprezentacija) represents Croatia in international football. The team is controlled by the Croatian Football Federation, the nation's governing body of football. A FIFA-sanctioned national side previously represented the short-lived Banovina of Croatia and Independent State of Croatia in nineteen friendly matches between 1940 and 1944.[3] This team was dissolved in 1945 as Croatia became a constituent federal republic of SFR Yugoslavia. In the period between 1945 and 1990, Croatia was ineligible to field a separate team for competitive matches; local players instead played for the Yugoslavia national football team.

The modern Croatian team was formed in 1990, shortly before Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia, and by 1993 had gained membership in FIFA and UEFA.[4] 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.[3] 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 failed to qualify for only one World Cup (in 2010) and one European Championship (in 2000).[5]

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 Kantrida Stadium in Rijeka or Gradski Vrt in Osijek. The team was undefeated in its first 36 home competitive matches at Maksimir, the run ending with a heavy defeat to England in September 2008.[3][6][7][8] The team's traditional nickname is Vatreni ("The Blazers").[9]

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.[10][11] On 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.[12][13][14] The team is often considered the best team from the Balkan area.[15]

History[edit]

Pre-independence[edit]

The first recognised Croatian team played against Switzerland in 1940.

Association football was first introduced to Croatia by English expatriates working on industrial projects in Rijeka and Županja in 1873. By 1907, local clubs had been established in Croatia and a modern edition of the sport's laws was translated and published.[16] 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 occasionally formed to play unofficial matches.[17] A hastily arranged Croatian side, managed by Hugo Kinert, played a few matches in 1918–19.[18][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.[3] 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.[4][20] Croatia's first recorded result as a FIFA member was a 1–1 draw with Slovakia on 8 September in Bratislava.[3] 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.[20]

From 1950 to 1956, unofficial Croatian teams were briefly active—they won games against Indonesia and a Yugoslav team playing as "Serbia".[19] The Yugoslavia squad at the 1956 Summer Olympics included Croatian footballers,[21] as did Yugoslavia in World Cup and European Championship tournaments up to 1990.[22][23]

Official formation[edit]

The last Yugoslav team to field a considerable Croatian contingent played against Faroe Islands on 16 May 1991, days before Croatia's independence referendum.[24] 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,[25] 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.[26] 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.[27][28] 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.[5][14] 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.[3] They eventually finished first in their qualifying group[29] 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.[30]

Golden Generation (1994–99)[edit]

Davor Šuker

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.[31] After their opening victory, Croatia beat reigning champions Denmark 3–0,[32] but went on to lose against Portugal by the same scoreline in their final group fixture.[33] 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.[34]

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.[35] Though regarded as underdogs, 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.[36] 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.[14][22] For their achievements, the team of the 1990s was dubbed the "Golden Generation."[37][38] 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.[39] Both fixtures against archenemies Yugoslavia (the rump state later renamed Serbia and Montenegro) ended in draws, which prevented Croatia from qualifying for the tournament.[40]

Jozić and Barić period (2000–04)[edit]

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.[41][42] However, they lost their final group fixture to Ecuador and were eliminated.[43] Jozić then resigned, and was replaced in July 2002 by Croatian-Austrian Otto Barić, the team's first manager born outside the Balkans.[44][45]

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.[46] At the finals tournament in Portugal, Croatia drew 0–0 with Switzerland and 2–2 with reigning champions France[47] only to lose to England 2–4 and suffer another elimination in the group stage.[48] Barić's two-year contract ended in June 2004 and was not renewed.[49]

Kranjčar period (2004–06)[edit]

Croatia vs. Brazil match at World Cup 2006

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.[50][51] However, local media outlets accused him of nepotism for selecting his son Niko Kranjčar for the national squad.[52] 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.[53][54] A 2–2 draw with Australia, in which three players were sent off, confirmed Croatia's exit in the group stage.[55] 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.[56]

Bilić period (2006–12)[edit]

In July 2006, the Croatian Football Federation replaced Kranjčar with Slaven Bilić, who played for the national team during their Golden Generation era.[57] 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.[58][59] 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.[60] 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.[61][62]

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

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.[63][64] 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.[65][66][67] 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.[68][69] 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).[70][71][72][73]

Following the tournament, Bilić renewed his contract, becoming the first manager since Blažević to lead Croatia to successive tournaments.[74] 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.[75] After a home win against Kazakhstan Croatia lost at home to England, ending a 14-year unbeaten home record.[7][76] The team was eventually weakened due to a number of key players' injuries and went on to suffer their heaviest defeat in history, losing 5–1 to England at Wembley Stadium. Although Croatia defeated Kazakhstan in their final qualifying fixture, they were ultimately eliminated as Ukraine, who had previously defeated group leaders England, beat Andorra to win second place in the group. Bilić was once again heavily expected to resign as national coach, but instead vowed to renew his contract and remain in charge.

Croatia vs. Italy match at UEFA Euro 2012

Despite heavy loss of form, which also saw the team fall outside the top ten in the FIFA rankings, Croatia were placed in the top tier of teams for the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying draw; Croatia was previously a candidate to co-host the tournament with Hungary which would have allowed the team to qualify automatically, but UEFA eventually chose Poland and Ukraine as hosts instead. Despite being top-seeds in their qualifying group, Croatia finished second behind Greece, settling for a play-off against Euro 2008 rivals Turkey.[77] 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 credited him for his strong revival of the national side during his six-year tenure.[78]

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

Croatia vs. Brazil at World Cup 2014

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.[79][80] 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.[81] Kovač led the team to a 2–0 aggregate victory against 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 as Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura was scrutinized for a number of controversial decisions.[82] In their second game, Croatia won 4–0 against Cameroon,[83] but did not progress from the group as they lost 3–1 to Mexico in their final fixture.[84][85]

In the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, Croatia were drawn against Italy, Bulgaria, Norway, Azerbaijan and Malta.[86] 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.[87] On 21 September 2015, Ante Čačić was named as the head coach of the Croatian national team.[88] On 13 October 2015, Croatia qualified for the finals by finishing as runners up in group H.[89] Under Čačić, Croatia broke the record for most goals scored in one match, by beating San Marino in a friendly 10–0.[90]

In Group D of UEFA Euro 2016, Croatia were drawn against Turkey, Czech Republic, and Spain. They defeated Turkey 1-0, on a goal by Luka Modrić, and drew 2-2 against the Czechs in a match marred by fans throwing flares on the pitch during the 86th minute. They ended group play by defeating Spain 2-1 on an 87th-minute goal by Ivan Perišić, handing the Spanish their first loss in Euro competition since Euro 2004 and winning the group for Croatia.

In August 2016, following UEFA Euro 2016, captain Darijo Srna announced his retirement from international football. With 68 caps as captain and 134 overall, Srna is by far Croatia's most capped player. Luka Modrić was announced as Srna's successor on 29 August 2016.[91][92]

Colours[edit]

Croatia's initial jersey was designed in 1990 by painter Miroslav Šutej, who also designed the nation's coat of arms. Although slightly altered by manufacturer 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 chequered motif was adopted as a symbol of national identity and similar designs are used by all Croatian national sports teams.[26]

Kit history[edit]

1990 - first chequered kit
1996–1997
1st kit
1998–2000
1st kit
2002–2004
1st kit
2004–2006
1st kit
2006–2008
1st kit
2008–2010
1st kit
2010–2012
1st kit
2012–2014
1st kit
2014–2016
1st kit
2016–
1st kit
1940 - first official kit
1996–1997
2nd kit
1998–2000
2nd kit
2002–2004
2nd kit
2004–2006
2nd kit
2006–2008
2nd kit
2008–2010
2nd kit
2010–2012
2nd kit
2012–2014
2nd kit
2014–2016
2nd kit
2016–
2nd kit

Stadium[edit]

Main article: Stadion Maksimir

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.[93] 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.[93][94][95]

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.[96] 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.[97]

Home venues record[edit]

Fans at Poljud stadium

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.

Key: Pld–games played, W–games won, D–games drawn; L–games lost, %–win percentage
Stadium City / town Pld W D L Win % Last match hosted
Stadion Maksimir Zagreb 58 38 15 5 65.5 2016
Stadion Poljud Split 12 1 7 4 08.3 2015
Stadion Kantrida Rijeka 11 10 1 0 90.9 2011
Stadion Gradski vrt Osijek 10 8 2 0 80.0 2016
Stadion A. Herjavec Varaždin 7 5 2 0 71.4 2015
Stadion A. Drosina Pula 4 3 0 1 75.0 2014
Stadion Cibalia Vinkovci 1 1 0 0 100.00 2009
Stadion Kranjčevićeva Zagreb 1 1 0 0 100.00 1996
Stadion Šubićevac Šibenik 1 0 1 0 00.0 2003
Stadion Koprivnica Koprivnica 1 1 0 0 100.00 2016
Stadion Rujevica Rijeka 1 1 0 0 100.00 2016
Totals 107 69 28 10 64.5% &

Last updated: Croatia vs. Turkey, 5 September 2016. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

Supporters[edit]

Football is Croatia's most popular team sport, and the national team has developed an extensive fan-base since its official formation in 1991.[98] 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. British journalist Marcus Tanner of Balkan Insight commented that the national team became a symbol of Croatian independence from Yugoslavia.[99] 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.[100] The clubs' ultra-style supporter groups, the Bad Blue Boys of Zagreb and The Torcida from Split, have both been associated with hooliganism,[101][102] though violence between the two groups does not usually occur at international games. Heavy support for the Croatian national team also comes from Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina, particularly from fans of Zrinjski Mostar.[103] The official Croatia supporters' club endorsed by the Croatian Football Federation is called Uvijek Vjerni (Always Faithful).[104]

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

Fans' behaviour at international games has led to various sanctions against the national team. Croatia was penalized and threatened with expulsion from UEFA for reports of racist behaviour by travelling fans at Euro 2004.[105] UEFA and FIFA have both penalized the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) for similar incidents in the past. During a friendly match against Italy in Livorno, a small group of Croatia fans formed the shape of a swastika.[105][106] Croatian fans were also heavily scrutinized for racist behavior against Turkey in 2008, as well as an incident of racial abuse towards English striker Emile Heskey in 2010.[107][108] During the 2006 World Cup a Croatian fan evaded security at a German venue and approached Croatian players on the field; he was arrested and banned for trespassing.[109] There were also reports of violent clashes between Croatian and Turkish supporters at Euro 2008, as well as improper conduct by Croatia fans at Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup.[110][111]

Croatia supporters at UEFA Euro 2012

Croatia supporters often use flares during international matches, which has also caused sanctions as the use of pyrotechnics is strictly banned.[112][113][114] In November 2014, the Croatian fans again attracted criticism by chanting the Ustaše slogan "Za Dom! Spremni" led by defender Josip Šimunić after beating Iceland in the World Cup play-offs. 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 Croatia supporters.[115] The players and manager condemned this behavior as detrimental to the national team. The incident was suspected to be a protest against the Croatian Football Federation for allegations of corruption. In June 2015, during the home game against Italy, played behind closed doors in Split, a swastika appeared embedded on the pitch. Croatian Football Federation called the incident an act of "sabotage" against the national team. The federation later apologized for the incident and called for a criminal investigation against the perpetrators.[116]

Maksimir Stadium was the scene of a politically-fueled riot between Croat and Serb fans at a Dinamo Zagreb – Red Star Belgrade game following the 1990 parliamentary election.[117] However, there have been no major issues between Croatian and Serbian supporters since then. The Croatian Football Federation and the Football Association of Serbia (FSS) 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.[118] 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.[119][120] 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).

Rivalries[edit]

Croatia has a fierce rivalry with Serbia. This rivalry stems from political roots, and is listed as one of the 10 greatest international rivalries by Goal.com[121] and as the most politically-charged football rivalry by Bleacher Report.[122] Croatia have played Serbia 4 times, with Croatia winning one and drawing the other three [123]

Competitive record[edit]

FIFA World Cup[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.[124] 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.

     Champions       Runners-up       Third Place       Fourth Place  

*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks; correct as of 23 June 2014 (Croatia v. Mexico)
FIFA World Cup record FIFA World Cup
Qualification record
Year Result Position Pld W D L GF GA Squad Position Pld W D L GF GA
19301994 Part of  Yugoslavia
United States 1994 Could not enter
France 1998 Third Place 3rd 7 5 0 2 11 5 Squad 2nd 10 5 4 1 20 12
South Korea Japan 2002 Group Stage 23rd 3 1 0 2 2 3 Squad 1st 8 5 3 0 16 2
Germany 2006 22nd 3 0 2 1 2 3 Squad 1st 10 7 3 0 21 5
South Africa 2010 Did Not Qualify 3rd 10 6 2 2 19 13
Brazil 2014 Group Stage 19th 3 1 0 2 6 6 Squad 2nd 12 6 3 3 14 9
Russia 2018 Qualification in progress - 0 0 0 0 0 0 Squad 4th 1 0 1 0 1 1
Total Third Place 4/5 16 7 2 7 21 17 51 29 16 6 91 42

UEFA European Championship[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.[125]

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

Recent results and fixtures[edit]

2016[edit]

Players[edit]

Current squad[edit]

The following is the list of players for the 2018 World Cup qualification game against Turkey on 5 September 2016.[131]
Caps, goals and numbers correct as of 5 September 2016 after the match against Turkey.
Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

0#0 Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club
1 1GK Ivan Vargić (1987-03-15) 15 March 1987 (age 29) 2 0 Italy Lazio
12 1GK Lovre Kalinić (1990-04-03) 3 April 1990 (age 26) 5 0 Croatia Hajduk Split

2 2DF Šime Vrsaljko (1992-01-10) 10 January 1992 (age 24) 22 0 Spain Atlético Madrid
3 2DF Ivan Strinić (1987-07-17) 17 July 1987 (age 29) 39 0 Italy Napoli
5 2DF Vedran Ćorluka (1986-02-05) 5 February 1986 (age 30) 93 4 Russia Lokomotiv Moscow
6 2DF Dejan Lovren (1989-07-05) 5 July 1989 (age 27) 31 2 England Liverpool
13 2DF Tin Jedvaj (1995-11-28) 28 November 1995 (age 20) 4 0 Germany Bayer Leverkusen
21 2DF Domagoj Vida (1989-04-29) 29 April 1989 (age 27) 42 1 Ukraine Dynamo Kyiv

4 3MF Ivan Perišić (1989-02-02) 2 February 1989 (age 27) 52 15 Italy Internazionale
7 3MF Ivan Rakitić (1988-03-10) 10 March 1988 (age 28) 81 13 Spain Barcelona
8 3MF Mateo Kovačić (1994-05-06) 6 May 1994 (age 22) 29 1 Spain Real Madrid
10 3MF Luka Modrić (Captain) (1985-09-09) 9 September 1985 (age 31) 94 11 Spain Real Madrid
11 3MF Marcelo Brozović (1992-11-16) 16 November 1992 (age 23) 21 4 Italy Internazionale
15 3MF Marko Rog (1995-07-19) 19 July 1995 (age 21) 4 0 Italy Napoli
18 3MF Ante Ćorić (1997-04-14) 14 April 1997 (age 19) 2 0 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb
19 3MF Milan Badelj (1989-02-25) 25 February 1989 (age 27) 25 1 Italy Fiorentina

9 4FW Andrej Kramarić (1991-06-19) 19 June 1991 (age 25) 15 4 Germany 1899 Hoffenheim
16 4FW Nikola Kalinić (1988-01-05) 5 January 1988 (age 28) 32 12 Italy Fiorentina
17 4FW Mario Mandžukić (1986-05-21) 21 May 1986 (age 30) 70 24 Italy Juventus
20 4FW Marko Pjaca (1995-05-06) 6 May 1995 (age 21) 12 1 Italy Juventus
22 4FW Duje Čop (1990-02-01) 1 February 1990 (age 26) 5 0 Spain Sporting Gijón

Recent call-ups[edit]

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

Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club Latest call-up
GK Danijel Subašić INJ (1984-10-27) 27 October 1984 (age 31) 25 0 France Monaco v.  Turkey, 5 September 2016
GK Dominik Livaković (1995-01-09) 9 January 1995 (age 21) 0 0 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb v.  Moldova, 27 May 2016

DF Josip Pivarić INJ (1989-01-30) 30 January 1989 (age 27) 5 0 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb v.  Turkey, 5 September 2016
DF Gordon Schildenfeld (1985-03-18) 18 March 1985 (age 31) 29 1 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb v.  Portugal, 25 June 2016
DF Duje Ćaleta-Car (1996-09-17) 17 September 1996 (age 20) 0 0 Austria Red Bull Salzburg v.  Moldova, 27 May 2016
DF Danijel Pranjić (1981-12-02) 2 December 1981 (age 34) 58 1 Slovenia FC Koper v.  Russia, 17 November 2015
DF Marko Lešković (1991-04-27) 27 April 1991 (age 25) 3 0 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb v.  Russia, 17 November 2015
DF Goran Milović (1989-01-29) 29 January 1989 (age 27) 1 0 China Chongqing Lifan v.  Russia, 17 November 2015
DF Jozo Šimunović (1994-09-04) 4 September 1994 (age 22) 0 0 Scotland Celtic v.  Bulgaria, 10 October 2015

MF Alen Halilović (1996-06-18) 18 June 1996 (age 20) 9 0 Germany Hamburger v.  Moldova, 27 May 2016
MF Domagoj Antolić (1990-06-30) 30 June 1990 (age 26) 4 0 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb v.  Moldova, 27 May 2016
MF Ivan Močinić (1993-04-30) 30 April 1993 (age 23) 1 0 Austria Rapid Wien v.  Russia, 17 November 2015
Notes
  • INJ = Not eligible because of injury

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.[20] 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 holds the highest number of competitive victories, having led Croatia to their best performances at major international tournaments.

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

Key: Pld–games played, W–games won, D–games drawn; L–games lost, %–win percentage
Manager Croatia tenure Pld W D L Win % Major competitions
Croatia Jerković, DražanDražan Jerković 1990–1991 3 3 0 0 100.00 &
Croatia Poklepović, StankoStanko Poklepović 1992 4 1 1 2 25.0 &
Croatia Marković, VlatkoVlatko Marković 1993–1994 1 1 0 0 100.00 &
Croatia Blažević, MiroslavMiroslav Blažević 1994–2000 72 33 24 15 45.8 Symbol confirmed.svg 1996 European Championship – Quarter-final
Symbol confirmed.svg 1998 World Cup – Third place
Symbol delete vote.svg 2000 European Championship – Failed to qualify
Croatia Ivić, TomislavTomislav Ivić (c)[note 5] 1994 1 1 0 0 100.00 &
Croatia Jozić, MirkoMirko Jozić 2000–2002 18 9 6 3 50.0 Symbol confirmed.svg 2002 World Cup – Group stage
Croatia Barić, OttoOtto Barić 2002–2004 24 11 8 5 45.8 Symbol confirmed.svg 2004 European Championship – Group stage
Croatia Kranjčar, ZlatkoZlatko Kranjčar 2004–2006 25 11 8 6 44.0 Symbol confirmed.svg 2006 World Cup – Group stage
Croatia Bilić, SlavenSlaven Bilić 2006–2012 65 42 15 8 64.6 Symbol confirmed.svg 2008 European Championship – Quarter-final
Symbol delete vote.svg 2010 World Cup – Failed to qualify
Symbol confirmed.svg 2012 European Championship – Group stage
Croatia Štimac, IgorIgor Štimac 2012–2013 15 8 2 5 53.3 &
Croatia Kovač, NikoNiko Kovač 2013–2015 19 10 5 4 52.6 Symbol confirmed.svg 2014 World Cup – Group stage
Croatia CzaczicAnte Čačić 2015– 12 8 3 1 66.7 Symbol confirmed.svg 2016 European Championship – Round of 16
Totals 259 138 72 49 53.3% 9 out of 11

Last updated: Croatia vs. Turkey, 5 September 2016. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

Most appearances[edit]

Darijo Srna, former captain (2008–2016) and all-time most capped player.
# Name Clubs[note 6] Croatia career Caps Goals Ref.
1 Darijo Srna Hajduk Split, Shakhtar Donetsk 2002–2016 134 22 [132]
2 Stipe Pletikosa Hajduk Split, Shakhtar Donetsk, Spartak Moscow
Tottenham Hotspur, Rostov
1999–2014 114 0
3 Josip Šimunić Hertha BSC, 1899 Hoffenheim, Dinamo Zagreb 2001–2013 105 3
4 Ivica Olić NK Zagreb, Dinamo Zagreb, CSKA Moscow,
Hamburg, Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg
2002–2015 104 20
5 Dario Šimić Dinamo Zagreb, Internazionale, Milan, Monaco 1996–2008 100 3
6 Luka Modrić Dinamo Zagreb, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid 2006– 94 11
7 Vedran Ćorluka Dinamo Zagreb, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur,
Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow
2006– 93 4
8 Robert Kovač Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich,
Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Dinamo Zagreb
1999–2009 84 0
9 Niko Kovač Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburg, Bayern Munich,
Hertha BSC, Red Bull Salzburg
1996–2008 83 14
10 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
Ivan Rakitić Basel, Schalke 04, Sevilla, Barcelona 2007– 81 13

Last updated: Croatia vs. Turkey, 5 September 2016. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

Top goalscorers[edit]

Davor Šuker, all-time top scorer.
# Name Croatia career Goals Caps Ref.
1 Davor Šuker[40] 1991–2002 45 69 [132]
2 Eduardo da Silva 2004–2014 29 64
3 Mario Mandžukić 2007– 24 69
4 Darijo Srna 2002–2016 22 134
5 Ivica Olić 2002–2015 20 104
6 Niko Kranjčar 2004– 16 81
7 Goran Vlaović 1992–2002 15 52
Ivan Perišić 2011– 15 51
9 Niko Kovač 1996–2008 14 83
10 Mladen Petrić 2001–2013 13 45
Ivan Rakitić 2007– 13 81

Last updated: Croatia vs. Turkey, 5 September 2016. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

1940s participants[edit]

From 1940 to 1944, FIFA affiliated national teams played under the banner of the Banovina of Croatia (part of Kingdom of Yugoslavia) in four matches and Independent State of Croatia fourteen 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
Branko Pleše 1941–1944 3 13 0.23
6 Slavko Pavletić 1941–1942 2 4 0.50
Mirko Kokotović 1940–1944 2 15 0.13
8 Slavko Beda 1941 1 1 1.00
Antun Lokošek 1944 1 1 1.00
Zvonko Jazbec 1940 1 3 0.33
Florijan Matekalo 1940 1 4 0.25
Ratko Kacijan 1940–1943 1 10 0.10

Records[edit]

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.[133][134][135] On 6 February 2013, captain Darijo Srna, Josip Šimunić and Stipe Pletikosa each also played their 100th cap for Croatia in a 4–0 friendly victory over South Korea in London. The trio went on to set a new joint-record of 101 appearances for the national team on 22 March 2013 in a World Cup qualifying victory against Serbia in Zagreb. Srna eventually surpassed his teammates and accrued 121 international caps for Croatia (as of November 2014). Ivica Olić has since also appeared 100 times for Croatia, with his 100th cap coming against Italy at San Siro on 16 November 2014.

With 45 goals scored, Davor Šuker, the current president of the Croatian Football Federation, is the team's highest-scoring player. He was named Croatia's "Golden Player" at the UEFA jubilee celebration in 2004 in recognition of this achievement.[40] Eduardo reached a distant second position with 29 goals before announcing his retirement from international football in 2014.[136] 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.[137]

The national team's record for highest-scoring victory was achieved in 2016, a 10–0 result over San Marino. Croatia's worst defeat is a joint record; the Independent State of Croatia side lost 5–1 to Germany twice in the 1940s. The modern Croatian team also lost to England by the same scoreline in a 2010 World Cup qualifying fixture in London.[3]

All-time team record[edit]

The following tables show Croatia's all-time international record, correct as of 5 September 2016 after the match against Turkey.[138][139][140]

*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks.

Modern Croatian team (1990–present)[edit]

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

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

For explanation see: Croatia national football team games – 1940s, Croatia v Indonesia (1956), Pre-independence period (above), Croatia – List of international matches.

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]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Includes 2 draws against  Yugoslavia.

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  129. ^ "Full Time Summary – Croatia v Portugal" (PDF). UEFA.org. Union of European Football Associations. 25 June 2016. Retrieved 25 June 2016. 
  130. ^ "FIFA sanctions several football associations after discriminatory chants by fans". FIFA.com. 27 May 2016. 
  131. ^ "Izbornik hrvatske reprezentacije Ante Čačić objavio je popis od 23 igrača za susret s Turskom". Croatian Football Federation (in Croatian). 16 August 2016. 
  132. ^ a b "A team". Croatian Football Federation. Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  133. ^ "Šimić ends playing career". Union of European Football Associations (UEFA.com). Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  134. ^ Milosavljevic, Zoran (5 June 2008). "Croatia`s Dario Simic Eyes 100th Cap". Reuters. Retrieved 25 August 2008. 
  135. ^ Pacak, Tomislav (15 September 2008). "Šimić završio sa stotkom" (in Croatian). Sportnet.hr. Retrieved 25 August 2008.  Translation
  136. ^ "Statistike – Nastupi". Hrvatski nogometni savez. Retrieved 14 September 2010. 
  137. ^ Islamović, Elvir (7 October 2006). "Petric inspires Croatian record". European Championships archive. Union of European Football Associations (UEFA.com). Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
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  139. ^ "Opponent Search". Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  140. ^ "Sum of plays and results from 1990 to 2012". HNS-CFF.hr. 16 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ The rules of Association football state that on receiving a second yellow card in a single match a player must be given a red card and be removed for the rest of the match. Laws of the game
  2. ^ Under the rules of Association football and the official European Championship tournament regulations, a loss inflicted via a penalty shootout does not count as a defeat, but rather a tie which needed a final process to determine the team which advances. Laws of the game
  3. ^ a b Croatia were sanctioned by FIFA to play two home matches (against Turkey on 5 September 2016 and against Iceland on 12 November 2016) without spectators for two cases of discriminatory chants by fans, which occurred at the friendly matches of against Israel on 23 March 2016 and against Hungary on 26 March 2016, having already been sanctioned for similar incidents by FIFA and UEFA.[130]
  4. ^ The following organisers led the national team as 'managers':
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Only clubs played for while receiving caps are listed.

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. 
  • 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]