Croatia national under-21 football team
|Nickname(s)||Mladi Vatreni ("The Young Blazers")|
|Association||Croatian Football Federation|
|Head coach||Nenad Gračan|
|Most caps||Tomislav Bušić (29)|
|Top scorer||Tomislav Bušić (13)|
| Croatia 0–0 Italy
13 February 1993, friendly
| Croatia 6–1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Osijek, 5 September 1997, qual. EC
| Spain 6–0 Croatia
Alicante, 10 September 2012, qual. EC
|UEFA U-21 Championship|
|Appearances||2 (First in 2000)|
|Best result||Group stage (2000, 2004)|
The Croatia national under-21 football team, also known as Croatia under-21(s) or Croatia U21(s), is a youth association football national team which represents Croatia at this age level and is a feeder team for the Croatia national football team.
This team is for Croatian players aged 21 or under at the start of a two-year European Under-21 Football Championship campaign, so players can be, and often are, up to 23 years old. Also in existence are teams for Under-20s (for non-UEFA tournaments), Under-19s and Under 17s. As long as they are eligible, players can play at any level, making it possible to play for the U21s, senior side and again for the U21s, as Ivan Rakitić and Nikola Kalinić have done recently. It is also possible to play for one country at youth level and another at senior level (providing the player is eligible). For example, Ivan Rakitić is a former Switzerland U21 player who later became a Croatia international.
The under-21 age category came into existence with the realignment of UEFA's youth competitions in 1976. The Croatia U21 team was formed following Croatia's independence from SFR Yugoslavia in 1991 and is controlled by the Croatian Football Federation (from 1976 to 1990 Croatian players played for Yugoslavia U21). A goalless draw in a friendly against Italy played on 13 February 1992 was Croatia U21s' first result.
As a European U21 team, Croatia compete for the European U21 Championship, with the finals held every odd-numbered year, formerly even-numbered years. There is no U21 World Cup, although there is an U20 World Cup. Since the Croatian Football Federation was recognised by UEFA in June 1993, in the middle of the two-year European Championship cycle, Croatia U21s began their first competitive campaign in 1994, in which they tried to qualify for the 1996 finals. They eventually finished fourth in a six-team group, with five wins out of ten games and four points behind group winners Italy.
They failed to qualify for the next tournament in 1998, but then managed to win their first qualification for the 2000 tournament. However, they finished bottom of a four-team group in the group stage, losing to Netherlands and Czech Republic and drawing with Spain.
In their next five campaigns Croatia U21 managed to qualify for the finals only one more time (for the 2004 finals), but again they failed to progress past the group stage. They came close to qualifying for the 2002 and 2006 tournaments, as they had reached the qualification playoff round, but did not progress further.
UEFA U-21 Championship record
|UEFA U-21 Championship record||UEFA U-21 Championship Qualification record||Manager|
|1996||Did not qualify||10||5||2||3||13||12||+1||Martin Novoselac|
|2000||Group stage||3||0||1||2||4||6||−2||10||7||2||1||28||9||+19||Ivo Šušak|
|2002||Did not qualify||8||3||4||1||10||7||+3||Martin Novoselac|
|2004||Group stage||3||0||1||2||3||5||−2||8||4||2||2||11||5||+6||Martin Novoselac|
|2006||Did not qualify||12||8||1||3||16||11||+5||Slaven Bilić|
|2015||10||6||1||3||22||9||+13||Niko Kovač; Nenad Gračan|
- 2000 UEFA European Under-21 European Championship squad
- 2004 UEFA European Under-21 European Championship squad
- Croatia national football team
- Croatia U19 national football team
- Croatia U17 national football team
- UEFA U21 European Championship
- Under-21 at UEFA.com
- U-23/U-21 Tournaments at the Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation website
- Croatia youth teams players' statistics at the Croatian Football Federation website