July 11th: When Croatia Won Two Most Important Games in its Football History

Daniela Rogulj


July 11, 2019 – July 11th is a historic day for Croatian football. On July 11, 1998, Croatia defeated Holland to secure the bronze medal at the World Cup in France. And on July 11, 2018, Croatia beat England for a spot in their first ever World Cup final. 

I’m not sure any summer can top the summer of 2018 in Croatia, which we’ve been reminded of especially over the last few days as we mark one year since Croatia’s historic World Cup campaign. 

My morning was met with a social media feed full of videos reminiscing about Croatia’s win against England in the semi-final of the World Cup in Russia. The streets were lined with red and white checkers, bodies were propped on the tops of cars, and Croatian flags waved with glory in the hot summer air. The sky glowed pink from flares, the sounds of car horns and loudspeakers blasting Croatia’s favorite patriotic songs filled every public square across the country, and the nation, for the first time in a long time, came together as one. 

On July 11, 2018, Croatia achieved its best ever result in football history, though not many believed they could. On the eve of the semi-final, journalists around the world questioned if Croatia had the stamina to surpass England, a nation who thought it was their year to bring football home, and who had an advantage over Croatia because their last two games didn’t move to penalties. Croatia was said to be mentally and physically exhausted after brutal battles against Denmark and Russia, and the legs on their fairytale were destined to buckle. 


Slobodan Kadić

Many of us worried that the media’s prophecy would be true after Trippier scored for England just five minutes into that historic semi-final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Croatia’s fatigue hardly carried them through the first half, which ended at 0:1 for England. Even the biggest believers in Croatia questioned if football really was going home to England that year. 

But Croatia’s second wind carried them through the second half, and Ivan Perišić scored the equalizer in the 68th minute. As the clock ticked to the final minute, time stopped for Croatian fans who feared they didn’t have a nerve left to spare to get them through another grueling extra time – especially one that decided their fate in the World Cup final. But with 10 minutes to go, Mario Mandžukić confirmed just why he is our Super Mario – and scored the goal that assured Croatia’s first ever World Cup final. The country erupted into madness. 


“How did I feel at that moment?” said Mandžukić. “I don’t know… I can’t find the words. I can’t; it was indescribable.” 


Slobodan Kadić

Which is a fair assessment to what most Croatians would say when looking back on that day. And I’d agree – it was indescribable. 



Thus, on July 11th, in the space of exactly twenty years ago, Croatia incredibly won two of the most important victories in its football history. 


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