In a country of only 4 million people, the chances of football success seem impossible. But Croatia succeeded in the 2018 World Cup, making it to the finals against France.
With a squad of players excelling in the first leagues in Spain, Germany, England, and France, it’s not difficult to see how Croatia could be so good.
A world-class midfielder, Ivan Rakitić has enjoyed a string of successes at both club and the international level. He won the Treble — Champions League, La Liga, and Copa del Rey in his first season with the Catalan giants Barcelona. He had won the Europa League with Sevilla just the year before. But making the 2018 World Cup finals where he also earned his 100th cap, must go down as one his finest moments.
Zvonimir Boban spent a decade with the AC Milan side, making 231 outings and scoring 30 goals, along the way earning four Italian League titles, three Supercups, and runners-up in the 1994 Champions League final. In 1998, he helped the national side in a third place at the World Cup in France. An intelligent midfielder with superb technique and creativity, Boban secures his spot as one of the best Croatians to play the game.
Winner of the Golden Boot in the 1998 World Cup, Davor Suker scored six goals in just seven matches, leading his team to a third-place finish. The Croatian striker was also a prolific scorer at the club level, scoring 49 goals in 106 games for Real Madrid, where he also won a Champions League title in 1998. He played an instrumental role in turning Croatia into a legitimate footballing nation.
Robert Prosinečki is one of only a few players that have played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona. The blonde-haired midfielder developed a solid all-around game, becoming a creative dribbler and passer — he finished 5th in the Ballon d’Or voting in 1991. However, had a smoking and drinking problem that slowed him down. Prosinečki earned 49 caps and ten goals for Croatia, playing in 2 World Cups.
Winner of the Champions League five times in five years and runner-up in the 2018 World Cup, Luka Modric is still proving that class is permanent. The classy midfielder won the 2018 Ballon d’Or, becoming the first player other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to win the award in over a decade. He also won FIFA’s “Best Player” award and UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award in 2018.
A ten-time Croatian Footballer of the Year, the 37-year-old captain now has 160 caps with the national side.
🏆 2018 @FIFAWorldCup Golden Ball. #OnThisDay
🔝 @lukamodric10 deserved it. #BeProud #Croatia #WorldCupFinal #Vatreni🔥 pic.twitter.com/KeyhNm4PqJ
— HNS (@HNS_CFF) July 15, 2020
A tireless worker and versatile player, the 6’3 forward Mario Mandžukić has starred for some of the best teams in Europe including Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, and Juventus along the way collecting two German League Championships, a Spanish Super Cup, three Italian Championships and Italian Cups, and much more. With 89 caps, he’s also played an important role in pushing the Croatian side to its runner-up finish at the 2018 World Cup.
A gifted and powerful forward, Alen Bokšić won Champions League with Marseille in 1993 before playing stints with Lazio, Juventus, and Middlesbrough. While he earned 40 caps with the Croatia side, he fell to injury just before the 1998 World Cup that saw the team finish third.
The Internazionale forward was one of the standout players for Croatia during the World Cup, scoring the team’s first goal in the final against France. The 2014 Croatian Footballer of the Year is an integral part of Croatia’s second ‘golden generation’ of star players and at 29 years old and 75 caps. And he’s still got a bright future for club and country to come.
Darijo Srna is the most capped player on the Croatia side with 133 appearances. Having spent fifteen dedicated seasons with FC Shakhtar Donetsk as captain, the right-back recently transferred to Cagliari to finish what has been an illustrious career.
One of Croatia’s key members in the backline in the 2018 World Cup, defenseman Dejan Lovren has earned 46 caps with the country. He’s also played 108 club games with Liverpool, which he helped lead to the Champions League final in 2018.
The versatile defender is often considered one of Croatia’s best defenders in history. He played 100 games for his national side, including the 1998 team finished third in the World Cup. He was also a member of the AC Milan side that won the 2003 and 2007 Champions League.