Croatia national football team
The Croatia national football team represents Croatia in men's international football matches. The team is controlled by the Croatian Football Federation, the governing body for football in Croatia. Football is widely supported throughout the country due to the ever-present popularity of the sport. Most home matches are played at the Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb, although other smaller venues are also used occasionally. They are one of the youngest national teams to reach the knockout stage of a major tournament, as well as the youngest team to occupy the top 10 in the FIFA World Rankings.
Croatia has represented itself as an independent nation since 1993, when the team was officially recognised by both FIFA and UEFA following dissolution of Yugoslavia. However, short-lived national sides were briefly active during periods of political upheaval, representing sovereign states such as the Banovina of Croatia from 1939 to 1941, or the Independent State of Croatia from 1941 to 1944. Before the current team was formed, most Croatian players represented Yugoslavia instead. The modern-day team has played competitive matches since 1994, starting with a successful qualifying campaign for the 1996 European Championship. In 1998, they competed in their first FIFA World Cup, finishing 3rd and providing the tournament's top scorer, Davor Šuker. Exactly twenty years later, under their second golden generation, Croatia reached the 2018 World Cup Final, securing second place after losing to France. Captain Luka Modrić was awarded best player of the tournament for his performances, thus making him the first ever Croatian player to win the award.
Among other nicknames, the team is colloquially referred to as the Vatreni or the Kockasti. In the Italian-speaking counties the team is known as Il furioso incendio. Since becoming eligible to compete, Croatia has only failed to qualify for two major tournaments; the 2000 European Championship and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Their biggest defeat came in 2018 with a 6–0 loss to Spain, while their highest-scoring victory was a 10–0 friendly win over San Marino in 2016. The national team is also known for some long-standing rivalries, such as the Derby Adriatico with Italy, or the politically-charged rivalry with Serbia, both of which have led to controversial or disruptive matches.
The team represents the second-smallest country by population and land mass to reach the World Cup final, behind Uruguay and Netherlands respectively. At major tournaments, Croatia holds joint-records for longest period between one goal and another of a player, most penalty shootouts played, and most penalties saved in a match. They are also one of only two teams—along with Colombia—to be named FIFA's "Best Mover of the Year" more than once, winning the award in 1994 and 1998. Upon 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.
Pre-independenceAssociation 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. Before the nation's independence, Croatian footballers played for the national teams of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, though during periods of political upheaval, ethnically Croatian sides occasionally formed to play unofficial matches. A hastily arranged Croatian side, managed by Hugo Kinert, played a few matches in 1918–19.
In 1940, Jozo Jakopić led an unofficial national team representing the Banovina of Croatia in four friendly matches, against Switzerland and Hungary. 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. Croatia's first recorded result as a FIFA member was a 1–1 draw with Slovakia on 8 September in Bratislava. 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. From 1950 to 1956, unofficial Croatian teams were briefly active once again—winning games against Indonesia and a Yugoslav team playing as "Serbia". The Yugoslavia squad at the 1956 Summer Olympics included Croatian footballers, as did Yugoslavia in World Cup and European Championship tournaments up to 1990.
Official formationThe last Yugoslav team to field a considerable Croatian contingent played against Faroe Islands on 16 May 1991, days before Croatia's independence referendum. 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, 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. 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. 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. 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. They eventually finished first in their qualifying group 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.
Blažević period and the "golden generation" (1994–1999)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. After their opening victory, Croatia beat reigning champions Denmark 3–0, but went on to lose against Portugal by the same scoreline in their final group fixture. 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.
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. 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. Croatia's performance in 1998 was among the best debut performances in the World Cup, and as a result, Croatia rose to number three in the January 1999 FIFA World Rankings, their highest ranking to date. For their achievements, the team of the 1990s was dubbed the "Golden Generation." A considerable portion of this squad, 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. Both fixtures against archrivals Yugoslavia ended in draws, which prevented Croatia from qualifying for the tournament.
Barić, Kranjčar, and Bilić periods (2000–2012)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. However, they lost their final group fixture to Ecuador and were eliminated. Jozić then resigned, and was replaced in July 2002 by Croatian-Austrian Otto Barić, the team's first manager born outside the Balkans.
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. At the finals tournament in Portugal, Croatia drew 0–0 with Switzerland and 2–2 with reigning champions France only to lose to England 2–4 and suffer another elimination in the group stage. Barić's two-year contract ended in June 2004 and was not renewed. 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. However, local media outlets accused him of nepotism for selecting his son Niko Kranjčar for the national squad. 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. A 2–2 draw with Australia, in which three players were sent off, confirmed Croatia's exit in the group stage. 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. Poll was heavily criticised for losing control of the match, and retired from refereeing shortly afterwards.
In July 2006, the Croatian Football Federation replaced Kranjčar with Slaven Bilić, who played for the national team during their Golden Generation era. 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. After controversially suspending Darijo Srna, Ivica Olić and Boško Balaban for missing a curfew after a nightclub outing, Bilić led the team through qualifiers for Euro 2008. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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, fewest games lost, and earliest goal.
Following the tournament, Bilić renewed his contract, becoming the first manager since Blažević to lead Croatia to successive tournaments. 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. After a home win against Kazakhstan Croatia lost at home to England, ending a 14-year unbeaten home record. The team was eventually weakened due to a number of key players' injuries and went on to suffer their biggest 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.
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. 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.
Štimac, Kovač and Čačić period (2012–17)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 after the death of Vlatko Marković ended a 14-year tenure. 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. Kovač led the team to a 2–0 aggregate victory over 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 match of the tournament, Croatia lost 3–1 to Brazil. The match garnered heavy media attention and controversy as Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura was scrutinized for a number of controversial decisions. In their second match, Croatia won 4–0 against Cameroon, but did not progress from the group as they lost 3–1 to Mexico in their final fixture.
In the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, Croatia were drawn against Italy, Bulgaria, Norway, Azerbaijan and Malta. 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. On 21 September 2015, Ante Čačić was named head coach of the Croatian national team. On 13 October 2015, Croatia qualified for the finals by finishing as runners-up in Group H. Under Čačić, Croatia broke the record for most goals scored in one match after defeating San Marino 10–0 in a friendly.
At Euro 2016, Croatia were drawn in Group D alongside Turkey, the Czech Republic and defending champions Spain, who had won the two previous editions of the tournament, in 2008 and 2012. Croatia began their campaign with a 1–0 win over Turkey; following a sensational long-volley kick from Luka Modrić, with the goal receiving praise and being considered one of the best of the tournament. The next match was against the Czech Republic. With Croatia taking the lead through Ivan Perišić and doubling it through Ivan Rakitić, before goals from Milan Škoda and a last-minute penalty from Tomáš Necid; but the match received controversy for crowd trouble in the last minutes of the match, with Flares being thrown on the pitch and a steward being hurt by a firework during stoppage time. Croatia's final match was against Spain; conceding an early goal from Álvaro Morata, before goals from Nikola Kalinić and a late winning goal from Perišić, securing Croatia a historic win as they topped the group, meanwhile for Spain it was their first defeat at a Euro finals match for the first time since 2004. After the match, Croatia were tipped as one of the tournament favourites, and drew Portugal in the round of 16, who surprisingly finished third in the group, advancing only as the third-best third-placed team. The match was extremely poor, described by BBC Sport as "abysmal", as there were no serious efforts on goal, with Ricardo Quaresma's winning goal in the 117th minute after Ivan Perišić hit the post with a header in the previous attack, knocking Croatia out of the tournament. Shortly after the Euro 2016 campaign, long-standing captain Darijo Srna announced his retirement from international football, amassing a record 134 appearances for the national side. Luka Modrić was announced as his successor for team captain.
Dalić's second "golden generation" (2017–present)Croatia started their 2018 World Cup qualification strongly, leading their group and remaining undefeated for the first round of matches. However, consecutive defeats against Iceland and Turkey, as well as a draw against lowly ranked Finland threatened their qualification hopes and caused a public outcry against manager Ante Čačić. He was quickly replaced by Zlatko Dalić, who led the team to a crucial 2–0 win against Ukraine in Kiev, securing a spot in the playoff round against Greece. Croatia went on to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after beating Greece 4–1 on aggregate, with all goals coming in the first leg in Zagreb.
In the buildup to the tournament, The Guardian, among other news outlets, labelled the 2017–18 squad as Croatia's second golden generation. Key players such as Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić and Mario Mandžukić drew close comparisons to their 1998 counterparts, and were expected to achieve similar success. Despite a poor showing in their friendly matches, Croatia started their World Cup campaign with a 2–0 victory over Nigeria, with Luka Modrić scoring a penalty. Modrić went on to score again in a highly applauded 3–0 victory over previous finalists Argentina, which was also marked by Vedran Ćorluka earning his 100th cap for the national team. Croatia then defeated Iceland to top the group with maximum points, marking their best ever performance in the group stages of the World Cup.
They went on to play Denmark in the round of sixteen; the match was dubbed as Croatia's best chance to finally win a knockout round fixture at a major tournament, which they hadn't done since 1998. Despite conceding in the first minute of the match, they equalized into the fourth minute of the game to force extra-time, where Modrić failed to convert a penalty in the 116th minute. In the ensuing penalty shootout, Croatia prevailed after goalkeeper Danijel Subašić saved three penalties, equalling the record for most penalties saved in a match. This was the team's first ever successful penalty shootout, garnering praise from the local public and international media. In the quarter-finals, Croatia drew 2–2 with hosts Russia, but advanced after another successful penalty shootout. This made them the first team since 1990 to win two consecutive penalty shootouts at the World Cup, and also equalled their best ever run at the tournament.
and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović after the 2018 World Cup Final against France.
Croatia went on to play England in the semi-finals. After falling behind once more, they equalized to force their third consecutive extra-time, equalling another record for most extra-time matches at the tournament. Mario Mandžukić eventually scored as Croatia won 2–1, making them the second-smallest country by population to reach a World Cup final. Croatia eventually lost the final 4–2 to France, where a controversial free kick was awarded to France for a possible dive by Antoine Griezmann, as well as controversial penalty later in the game awarded by the video assistant referee for a handball by Perišić. After the match, Luka Modrić became the first Croatian to win the Golden Ball award for best player of the tournament. For achieving their best ever World Cup finish, the Croatian players were welcomed by an estimated half a million people at their homecoming in the capital of Zagreb.
On 23 January 2018, Croatia were drawn to play against England and Spain in the League A of inaugural edition of the UEFA Nations League; an international tournament contested by all UEFA member's national teams. On 11 September 2018, Croatia lost 6–0 away to Spain in their first Nations League game, with the result becoming Croatia's record loss in the process. Croatia drew 0–0 home with England. The match was played behind closed doors due to UEFA punishment. In the next match against Spain, Croatia won 3–2 home due to a goal in stoppage time. But due to 2–1 away defeat to England, Croatia placed last in the group and got relegated to League B of the next edition of the tournament.
On 2 December 2018, the draw for the Euro 2020 qualifiers was held in Dublin, Ireland. Croatia was the seeded team of the Group E and grouped with Wales, Slovakia, Hungary and Azerbaijan. Croatia started their qualifying campaign poorly by narrowly winning on 21 March by the score of 2–1 against Azerbaijan and narrowly losing on 24 March by the same score to Hungary. Although they dropped points by drawing with Azerbaijan and Wales away, Croatia managed to top their qualifying group for the first time since Euro 2008 qualification. Croatia was drawn in Group D of the tournament, alongside England, the Czech Republic and the play-offs winner. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament was delayed for a year.
After the Nations League format change in September 2019, Croatia remained in the League A. On 3 March 2020, Croatia were drawn in Group 3, alongside Sweden, France and Portugal.
Kits and crestsCroatia's modern-day jersey was designed in 1990 by locally acclaimed painter Miroslav Šutej, who also designed the nation's flag, coat of arms and banknotes. The traditional red and white motif is based on the historic Croatian checkerboard, which has been used to represent Croats since the Middle Ages. Although there have been many slight variations made by the kit manufacturers since the original release, the jersey design has remained consistent throughout the years, and has served as a blueprint for many other Croatian national sports teams and entities. The typical combination has featured red-and-white chequred shirts, white shorts and blue socks, mirroring the tricolour of the country's flag.
Away kits used by the team have traditionally been all-blue, incorporating the red-and-white chequers as a trim. In recent years, Croatia has moved to using darker away kits, such as the now-infamous dark navy-and-black chequered design that featured prominently in the 2018 World Cup campaign. The Vatreni have often been required to use their away kits even when playing at home or when being listed as the designated "home" team at neutral venues, as teams also using a red-and-white colour scheme often use a red home kit and white away kit, or vice versa. Since both kits clash with the chequers of Croatia, frequent use of the away kit has been necessitated.
SupportersFootball is Croatia's most popular team sport, and the national team has developed an extensive fan base since its formation in 1991. Following their run at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, just three years after the Croatian War of Independence, there was a rapid rise in domestic and global attention for the side. Balkan Insight commented that the national team became a symbol of Croatian independence from Yugoslavia. However, after the death of former-president Franjo Tuđman, local political ties with the national team have loosened. All matches are widely followed and televised throughout the country, particularly during tournaments.
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. Both sets of fans Bad Blue Boys of Zagreb and Torcida from Split—have been associated with hooliganism due to their ultra-style support, though violence between them does not occur at international matches. Other ultras groups are Armada Rijeka, Kohorta Osijek, Ultras Vinkovci, Tornado Zadar, Funcuti Šibenik and Demoni Pula. Heavy support for the Croatian national team also comes from Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina, particularly from fans of Zrinjski Mostar and Široki Brijeg. There are also considerable Croatian communities in Australia, North America, and South America that follow the team.
Among supporters, it is customary to include an inscription of their city of origin onto the Croatian flag to indicate where they are from. They are also notable for their vocal support and orchestrated chants during matches. It is common for one section to shout "U boj, u boj", with another responding "Za narod svoj", which is an old Croatian patriotic song. When the team wins, supporters often chant "Bježite ljudi, bježite iz grada", which is a song praising the large presence of euphoric Croatian fans. The Croatian Football Federation endorses an official fan club for the team, known as Uvijek Vjerni.
The national team enjoys widespread support from various local musicians, who often release tracks dedicated to them. Former manager Slaven Bilić and his rock band released a single, "Vatreno ludilo", which reached the top position on the Croatian music charts during Euro 2008. Other Croatian artists such as Baruni, Connect, Dino Dvornik, Gibonni, Prljavo Kazalište, Colonia, Stoka, Nered and Thompson have also recorded songs praising the team. The most widely used among supporters are "Moja domovina", "Srce vatreno", "Hrvatska je prvak svijeta", and "Malo nas je, al' nas ima". Most popular among the fans and played at every home match is "Lijepa li si" by Thompson and fans sing it themselves during the match. Bad Blue Boys supporters from Zaprešić made their band Zaprešić Boys and made few popular songs for each tournament like "Samo je jedno", "U pobjedi i porazu" "Neopisivo", "Igraj moja Hrvatska", with the latter being an unofficial anthem for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The players and fans often adopt other patriotic songs to celebrate victories as well.
has become increasingly controversial due to sanctions imposed by FIFA and UEFA.|alt=
Fans' behaviour at international games has led to various sanctions against the national side, despite due efforts by the HNS, Croatian government and players to prevent unwanted incidents. The team has been penalized for multiple acts of racist behaviour by its fans, including racial abuse towards English striker Emile Heskey in 2010, racial chants at a home game against Norway in 2015 and the carving of a swastika into the pitch at a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy that same year. The 12 October 2018 UEFA Nations League game against England was played in Croatia, also without fans. There have also been reports of minor clashes involving Croatian fans at various tournaments, leading to further sanctions imposed by FIFA and UEFA.
There are often fears of particular violence during matches against Serbia, such as the politically-fuelled football riot following the 1990 parliamentary election. This has led to extra security measures being imposed for these matches and general restrictions on traveling fans. There have also been multiple acts of protest against the national team, in response to widespread allegations of corruption within the Croatian Football Federation, and other fan disturbances whose cause is not easily defined. Croatia's Euro 2016 qualifying fixture against Italy in Milan was interrupted due to flares being thrown onto the field by a small section of attendants, which also occurred at a European Championship match against Czech Republic.
StadiumsThe majority of Croatia's home matches take place at the Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb, which is also the home-ground of local football club Dinamo. The venue, built in 1912 and refurbished in 1997, is named after the surrounding neighbourhood of Maksimir. It was one of two venues for UEFA Euro 1976, hosted by Yugoslavia, alongside Red Star Stadium in Belgrade. It has been hosting national team games since Croatia's competitive home debut against Lithuania. The Croatian Football Federation 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 Mayor of Zagreb Milan Bandić in 2008 due to high construction costs.
Some home matches are occasionally played at other, smaller venues around the country. The Stadion Poljud 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 run was finally ended after the team came from behind to beat Georgia on 3 June 2011. Qualifying fixtures have also been played at the Stadion Kantrida in Rijeka, along with Stadion Gradski vrt 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.
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.
RivalriesThe Croatia national football team has developed numerous rivalries with other national teams. Most of these are friendly in nature, stemming from repeated match-ups and the context in which they are played. However, some are also politically and socially charged. The following are the team's most notable opponents:
- Croatia v. England: Croatia and England faced each other eight times, six times in competitive matches, of which some are regarded as the most remarkable fixtures in both teams' histories. During Euro 2008 qualifying, in addition to a 2–0 victory over England on home soil in Zagreb, Croatia were the first team to triumph over England at the newly built Wembley Stadium. The 3–2 defeat to Croatia meant England failed to qualify for their first major competition since hosting Euro 1996, which was also Croatia's debut at a major tournament. England in turn went on to defeat Croatia twice during qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which caused Croatia to miss their first World Cup since gaining independence. This included a 5–1 defeat at the Wembley Stadium, which was Croatia's biggest defeat until their 6–0 loss to Spain. The two teams also competed for a place in the quarter-finals at the 2004 European Championships, with England winning 4–2. They played again at the 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-finals, with Croatia winning 2–1 and ending England's best run at the tournament in 28 years. It also marked Croatia's first World Cup final, their best achievement at the competition to date. Four months later on 18 November, England beat Croatia 2–1 at the Wembley Stadium in the group stage return leg of the inaugural edition of the Nations League resulting in Croatia's relegation to League B of the next edition of the competition, just a month after both teams drew 0–0 at the Rujevica Stadium in their first leg.
- Croatia v. France: Croatia and France began playing against each other in several friendlies; their semi-final duel at the 1998 World Cup was their first competitive match-up. As both countries have the red-white-blue tricolor, matches between the two are nicknamed Le derby tricolore or Trobojnica . During the 1998 World Cup, both France and Croatia reached their then-pinnacle of international prowess, when the hosts won the tournament after defeating the Croats, who took third place. Twenty years later, the two teams contested the 2018 World Cup final, where France overcame Croatia 4–2 to secure the trophy for a second time. Similarly to 1998, the match with France elevated Croatia to its highest-ever ranking as runners-up. The two teams have competed against each other five times as of July 2018, with France winning three matches and drawing two.
- Croatia v. Germany: Albeit there have only been three competitive meetings between Croatia and Germany, each of them took place at a major tournament and featured a red card. The first was a quarter-final game at the 1996 European Championships, which Germany won en route to becoming champions. Two years later, Croatia eliminated Germany in a 3–0 World Cup quarter-final win, Germany's biggest defeat at a World Cup since 1958. The two sides played each other again at the 2008 European Championships, with Croatia winning 2–1.
- Croatia v. Italy: Matches between Croatia and Italy are known as the Derby Adriatico or Adriatic Derby, named after the Adriatic Sea which separates the two nations. This rivalry is not to be confused with the similarly named Adriatic derby between Croatian clubs Hajduk Split and Rijeka. Croatia has not lost against Italy since 1942, with most of the fixtures played in qualifications and at tournaments. During the Euro 2016 qualifying phase, Croatia and Italy played each other twice, drawing both times. Both matches were marred by crowd trouble due to flares being thrown onto the pitch, which also occurred when the two teams met at the 2012 European Championships. At the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Croatia came from behind to beat Italy 2–1 in another controversial game, after two Italian goals were disallowed. As of July 2018, the two countries have played nine times: Croatia has won three times, Italy has won once, and drawn five times.
- Croatia v. Serbia: Stemming from the Croatian War of Independence, Croatia and Serbia have developed a politically charged football rivalry, described as one of the "fiercest rivalries in the world". Supporters of both national teams clashed for the first time at the Dinamo–Red Star riot, as both clubs were seen as symbols of national identity at the time. Since the breakup of Yugoslavia, both countries have continued to use their national teams to assert their national identities. Croatia and Serbia played each other for the first time during qualifying for Euro 2000, with both matches ending in a draw and sparking violence among supporters and players. Since then, the two teams have met twice in World Cup Qualifying, with Croatia winning 2–0 in Zagreb and the away leg ending in a draw after Josip Šimunić and Nemanja Matić were sent off. These matches were played without away supporters and with added security to avoid crowd trouble.
- Croatia v. Spain: Croatia and Spain have played each other eight times, of which four were competitive matches. The first in a major tournament was a decisive group stage third game at the 2012 European Championships, which Spain won on its way to becoming champions. Four years later in the 2016 European Championships, also in the last game of the group stage, Croatia clinched the top spot in their group in a late comeback victory. In 2018, they met again in the top division of the newly created Nations League. In the first leg, Croatia lost to Spain 6–0, suffering its biggest defeat to date. The return game in a crowded Maksimir Stadium saw Croatia respond by beating Spain 3–2 with a late stoppage-time goal.
- Croatia v. Turkey: Croatia's first match at a major tournament was against Turkey at the 1996 European Championships, which they won after a late goal. At the 2008 European Championships, the two teams were involved in one of the most dramatic matches in the history of the tournament; in their quarter-finale game, Croatia took the lead in extra time, with less than a minute left to play, only for Turkey to level almost immediately and then win the ensuing penalty shootout, progressing to the semi-final stage. Croatia responded by beating Turkey 3–0 in the 2012 European Championship playoffs, qualifying at their expense. Since then, the two teams have played each other three times, with Croatia winning at the 2016 European Championships and twice in World Cup qualifying.
FIFA World Cup
UEFA European Championship
UEFA Nations League
All-time team recordsCroatia had an undefeated run in qualification games on home soil for World or European Championships from 4 September 1994 until 10 September 2008, marking a span of 14 years and 35 matches without a single loss.
debut for Croatia in June 2013, aged 16 years old|253x253px|alt=
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. 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 in March 2013 in a World Cup qualifying victory against Serbia in Zagreb. Srna eventually surpassed his teammates and accrued a record total of 134 international caps for Croatia before retiring in 2016. Alen Halilović is the youngest player to represent the team, making his senior debut in June 2013 aged 16 years, 11 months and 22 days. The team's oldest player is Dražen Ladić, who played his last match in May 2000 aged 37 years, 4 months and 27 days.
With 45 goals scored, Davor Šuker, the current president of the Croatian Football Federation, is the team's highest-scoring player. The national team's record for highest-scoring victory was achieved in 2016, a 10–0 friendly win over San Marino. Croatia's biggest defeat is a 6–0 loss against Spain played on 11 September 2018 in Elche in Croatia's first game of the UEFA Nations League.
FIFA ranking historyThe following is a chart of yearly averages of Croatia's FIFA ranking. Upon admission to FIFA, Croatia was ranked 125th in the world. The 1998 World Cup propelled Croatia to third place immediately after the tournament, making it the most volatile team in FIFA Rankings history. It held that rank until February 1999.
Results and fixturesThe following matches have been played within the past 12 months.
Times are CET/CEST, in accordance with Croatian local time.
Current squadThe following is the list of players for friendly games against on 26 March 2020 and on 30 March 2020 that have in the meantime been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recent call-upsThe following players have also been called up to the Croatia squad in the last 12 months and are still eligible for selection.
- INJ = Injured.
- WD = Withdrew from the current squad.
- SUS = Suspended from participating.
- RET = Retired after latest call-up.
- U21 = Joined the Croatia U21 team instead.
|Head coach||Zlatko Dalić|
|Assistant coaches|| Dražen Ladić|
|Goalkeeping coach||Marjan Mrmić|
|Fitness coach||Luka Milanović|
|Video analyst||Marc Rochon|
|Physiotherapists|| Nenad Krošnjar|
|Doctors|| Zoran Bahtijarević|
|Team manager||Iva Olivari|
|Security officer||Miroslav Marković|
|Media officer||Tomislav Pacak|
|Kit men|| Mladen Pilčić|
Previous squads;UEFA European Football Championship squads:
- UEFA Euro 1996 squad
- UEFA Euro 2004 squad
- UEFA Euro 2008 squad
- UEFA Euro 2012 squad
- UEFA Euro 2016 squad
- 1998 FIFA World Cup squad
- 2002 FIFA World Cup squad
- 2006 FIFA World Cup squad
- 2014 FIFA World Cup squad
- 2018 FIFA World Cup squad
Most capped players
|3||Eduardo da Silva||2004–2014||29||64|
Most clean sheets
|#||Name||Croatia career||Clean sheets||Caps|
The following table provides a summary of the complete record of each Croatia manager including their results regarding World Cups and European Championships.
- FIFA World Cup
- * Runners-up: 2018
- * Third place: 1998
- Hassan II Trophy
- * Winners: 1996
- Kirin Cup
- * Runners-up: 1997
- Korea Cup
- * Winners: 1999
- Carlsberg Cup
- * Third place: 2006
- Best Mover of the Year
- * 1994
- * 1998
Outside of football
On 16 December 2012, the foundation made 500,000 HRK on an auction of Niko Kranjčar's shirt and Lionel Messi's shirt that was signed by all FC Barcelona players. The auction was organized in Esplanade Zagreb Hotel and even attended by President of Croatia Ivo Josipović.
On 13 November 2018, the players gathered in hotel The Westin Zagreb to answer the fans' phonecalls, the proceeds of which were donated to the Vatreno Srce foundation. In 2018, the foundation chose to finance Children's Hospital Zagreb and Korak u Život, a charity that helps youngsters raised in orphanages to make the transition into the higher education system.
On 11 November 2019, more than 500,000 HRK were collected in another call event, that were then directed to Children's Hospital Kantrida.
On 24 March 2020, the national team players donated 4,200,000 HRK for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and for repair of damage caused by 2020 Zagreb earthquake.