Bronze Generation: Croatia Played First World Cup Game 20 Years Ago Today

Daniela Rogulj

Croatia’s debut performance in the World Cup was on June 14, 1998, against Jamaica. 

From 17:00, Russia and Saudi Arabia will open the 21st World Cup. On this same day, exactly 20 years ago, Croatia played their first match ever at the world championship. On their road to glory and the bronze medal, Ćiro Blažević’s team opened the tournament against Jamaica at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens, winning 3:1, reports on June 14, 2018. 

After Alen Bokšić froze 90,000 Ukrainians in the crowded Valeriy Lobanovskyi stadium to launch Croatia into their historic first world championship, the country experienced true football mania. Although the primary goal had already been achieved, which was playing in the largest international football competition, the euphoria that dominated Croatia was incredible, and the 1998 squad knew they had to give much more. 

Based on Croatia’s brilliant success at the Euro 96 in England when the team was stopped only in the quarter-finals to champions Germany (with the help of the Swedish refereeing trio), and the fact that Croatia’s players had important roles in the biggest clubs such as Juventus, Milan, Real, and Lazio, the national team was looking for success from their footballers – and a great success at that. 

The undeniable “Vatreni” created one of the greatest sensations the World Cup had ever seen. Coming in third place at the World Cup was the result of results, and the world was finally introduced to the power of Croatia.

Croatia’s first obstacle to the bronze, however, was the Jamaican national team, played on this day in 1998. Croatia’s debut World Cup performance saw them crush Jamaica with goals by Stanić, Prosinečki, and Šuker in front of 38,100 fans in Lens.

Croatia then went onto to defeat Japan 1:0 with a goal by Šuker, and though they lost to Argentina 1:0, they managed secure second in the group.

The rest is history.


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