The modern Croatian team was readmitted to FIFA in 1992 after gaining independence from Yugoslavia. Since its World Cup debut, Croatia has qualified for all but one World Cup tournament. This is the team’s second appearance in the semifinals.
Some other stats:
First appearance: 1998
Total appearances: Five out of 21 World Cup tournaments
Title wins: 0
What’s the History
An Impressive Debut
At its World Cup debut in 1998, Croatia made it all the way to the semifinals, ultimately winning the third-place matchup. The result catapulted them from 125th to third place in FIFA’s worldwide rankings, and the team was styled Croatia’s golden generation.
An Infuriating Loss
In 2014, Croatia failed to advance from the group stage, partly as a result of a controversial loss to Brazil.
How They Got Here in 2018
Croatia completed a perfect 3-0 performance in the group round. The team beat Nigeria, 2-0, with an own goal and a penalty shot. Then it crushed Argentina by a stunning 3-0 margin and eliminated Iceland with a 2-1 victory, in a final group game.
The team’s knockout match against Denmark was knotted at 1-1 after a pair of early strikes in the first four minutes of play. But after that, play remained very even before Croatia ultimately prevailed winning 3-2 on penalties.
In the quarterfinals Croatia ended Russia’s surprising run, winning 4-3 on penalties.
What’s at Stake
Croatia’s team has a fairly unexpected opportunity to win the title with this year’s charmed run.
The team is playing in the shadow of the 1998 squad, but that seems to inspire its players. As defender Vedran Corluka has said: “ We are in the semifinal again, after 20 years. That is something special in our country.”
For Croatian star Luka Modric, the semifinals are the chance to salvage a fraught relationship with the Croatian public, thanks to a perjury charge. At 32-years-old, this may be his last World Cup and last chance to repair the relationship with his country’s supporters.