Croatia v. Serbia: A Look at Greatest Sporting Clashes Between Two Countries

Daniela Rogulj

An analysis of the greatest sporting clashes between Croatia and Serbia ahead of the ‘match of the year’ between the two nations at the European Handball Championship tonight.

The Croatia men’s handball team expects another memorable duel with Serbia, and this time in their opening match of the European Handball Championship at Split’s Spaladium Arena tonight. 

In front of a sold-out Arena, our Croatian ‘Cowboys’ are the favorite in tonight’s match against Serbia, but one thing is for certain: every clash between these two nations is one marked in history – and remember, this game has already been named the ‘match of the year’. has analyzed the clashes between the national teams of Croatia and Serbia in major competitions in four of the most popular team sports in the region on January 11, 2018. 

Football 1-3-0

Out of the four most popular sports, the only sport where Croatia is in the plus is football!

One of the most memorable moments was Croatia and Serbia (then Yugoslavia) in the Euro 2000 qualifications. On August 18, 1999, in Belgrade, the electricity went out at the stadium in a tense match between the two nations, and the game ended 0: 0. The same rivals met on October 10 in Zagreb and drew 2:2 (goals by Bokšić, Stanić). Though Croatia did not lose, the result advanced Serbia to the Euro, and Croatia was left at home.

During the World Cup qualifiers for the tournament in Brazil, on March 22, 2013, Croatia and Serbia met at Maksimir. Croatia won 2:0 with goals from Mandžukić and Olić. On September 6, 2013, in Belgrade, the game ended 1:1. Mandžukić was Croatia’s scorer, and Šimunić sacrificed getting a red card to avoid a defeat. Croatia was the one to advance to Brazil. Serbia did not. 

Basketball 0-4

Croatia and Serbia have met four times in major basketball competitions, and unfortunately, all four times were after the golden generation of Dražen, Kukoč and Rađa.

On June 30, 1997, in the second round group, Yugoslavia won 64:62. A three-pointer by Đorđević (who scored 19 in total) at the final buzzer won the game for Yugoslavia, who ended as the champion. Croatia ended in 11th.

At the Eurobasket competition on August 31, 2001, Serbia won in the first round with 80:66 (Stojaković with 21 baskets, Kovačić with 19 and eight rebounds). Serbia won the gold again, and Croatia placed seventh. 

On September 4, 2010, in the round of 16 of the World Championship, Serbia defeated Croatia 73:72 (Krstić with 16 baskets; Popović with 21 baskets). Serbia ended their tournament in the quarters.

And finally, in the quarterfinals of the Olympic games in Rio, it was another tight match which Serbia ultimately won (86:83). Bojan Bogdanović scored 28 baskets for Croatia, and Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 18 baskets for Serbia. Serbia ended the Olympics with the silver medal. 

Handball 3-1-3

Believe it or not, even in handball, Croatia doesn’t have the best results in major competitions against Serbia! The reason for this, however, lies in the fact that while the Cowboys have won medals, Serbia has not participated in some of these competitions, or they were eliminated too early to meet Croatia. Between the two countries, there have been seven matches – three wins by both teams and one draw. 

In the round of 16 of the World Championship in 1999, Croatia was defeated by Serbia (then Yugoslavia) 30:23, and in the 2002 European Championship, Croatia lost to Serbia 34:22 in their group! 

And then there was a turnaround: in the second round group of the 2005 World Championship, Croatia saw a victory over Serbia and Montenegro 24:23, and defeated them again at the European Championship in 2006 with a score of 34:30.

In the first round of the World Championship in 2011, Croatia and Serbia played 24:24 (Croatia finished fifth, Serbia tenth). Serbia celebrated in the semi-finals of the European Championship in 2012 which they hosted (26:22). Serbia finished second, while Croatia finished third.

The last clash between the two was in favor of Croatia when they met at the Olympics in 2012. Croatia won 31:23.

Water polo 6-2-11

In water polo, Croatia and Serbia are two of the world’s most powerful forces, and it’s hard to find a major competition where they did not meet! 

The first duel between the two may be remembered the most: the quarterfinals of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The victory went to Croatia (8:6).

The next two wins belonged to then Yugoslavia: the European Championship in the semi-finals in 1997 (8:7) and the second round group of the 1998 World Championship (6:5).

In the quarterfinals of the 1999 European Championship, a 9:7 win went to Croatia, and in the group of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Croatia and Serbia drew 4:4.

For seven years, Croatia waited for a new victory in a significant competition over Serbia. Yugoslavia won 8:6 in the semi-finals in 2001,in the final of European Championship in 2003, Serbia and Montenegro won 9:8, in the first round of the 2004 Olympics, Serbia won 11:8, as well as in the semi-finals of the World Championship in 2005 where they won 5:4.

Serbia’s winning streak was interrupted in the semi-finals of the 2007 World Championship when Croatia won 10:7 in Melbourne, and in the final they broke the Hungarians to win the gold.

In the first round of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, there was a new victory for Croatia (11: 8). In the semi-finals of the World Championship in 2009, Serbia celebrated (12:11), while the 2010 European Championship semifinals in Zagreb, Croatia celebrated 10:9. 

This was followed by the first round of European Championship in 2012 (15:12 for Serbia), the first round of European Championship in 2014 (8: 8), and three serious defeats for Croatia – in the final of the World Championship in 2015 which went 11:4 for Serbia, in the first round of the European Championship in 2016 which was 13:6, and in the end, in the final of the Olympic Games in Rio 2016 where Serbia won 11:7.

But in the semifinals of the 2017 World Championship, Croatia celebrated a 12:11 victory over Serbia, finally breaking the curse. 

Best of luck to Croatia tonight in the highly-anticipated match against Serbia! The game begins at 20:30 local time at Split’s Spaladium Arena. 

Translated from


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment