After a marathon knockout stage, where all of their games went to extra time, Croatia have finally bested their World Cup achievements of 1998. The Vatreni reached the semi finals in France 20 years ago and were beaten by eventual winners France. They finished third. Ever since, the next generation of players have had that feat in the back of their mind, always pressurizing them to do better. Mission Accomplished!
One similarity between the team from 1998 and the current one is they both have an iconic Real Madrid player. At that time, Davor Suker lead the Croatians to a World Cup third place. In 2018, it’s Luka Modric, fresh from winning three consecutive Champions Leagues, who is the Vatreni’s talisman. Suker is now the president of the Croatian Football Association and will be proud of his countrymen’s performance in Russia.
Mario Mandzukic, ever in Suker’s shadow, has been trying to reach the president’s goal tally for his country. With his strike against England, it’s safe to say he will now be remembered forever regardless of whether he beats Suker’s goal tally or not. Even though France beat Croatia on Sunday, Mandzukic has delivered a World Cup final to his country, which is a first in their history. That is priceless and way better than a goals record.
Croatia will come back stronger at Euro 2020. On top of having world class players like Mandzukic, Modric, Rakitic and Kovacic, they have other solid performers in Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren, Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic and goalkeeper hero Subasic among others. They have shown a never-say-die attitude and persevered through three consecutive games of extra time, two of which ended in penalty shootout wins. Luck also seems to favor them.
France won the game against Croatia but the Vatreni did themselves proud, not only in the final but in every single game they played in. Luka Modric deservedly won Player of the Tournament after captaining his team to the final. Well done, Croatia!
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