November 19, 2018 – It was the best year in the history of Croatian football – and it wasn’t just about winning World Cup silver.
As we know, behind us is a wonderful year in football. In less than 365 days, Croatian football has never given the nation and its fans so much happiness, pride, and joy as it has this year. 2018 will be remembered for the next 5, 15, and 50 years to come, while the stories of the ‘Vatreni’s’ success will be passed down by Croatians for even longer.
Becoming World Cup finalists in Russia is the biggest success of Croatian football, but also in the history of any Croatian sport – and it was the driver of all good things that followed.
Some truly amazing stories emerged in 2018, and here are some of the most memorable, as written by Goal.hr on November 19, 2018.
1. Luka Modrić was named the best footballer in the world
Luka Modrić was named the best footballer in the world by FIFA this year, thus breaking the ten-year dominance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. After the incredible duo, Luka became the first player to win the FIFA title since Kaka.
But that’s not all. The captain of the Croatia national team was also named the best player in Europe by UEFA and Goal, and he was declared the best player of the World Cup in Russia. Let’s also not forget that Luka is even the favorite to win the Ballon d’Or this year!
2. Zlatko Dalić is the third best coach in the world
A golden story was also written about Zlatko Dalić, as the Croatian coach was a finalist for the best coach Europe, placing among the top three strategists in the world in 2018.
Dalić remained on Croatia’s bench after the World Cup and continued to drive the nation on the wave of positivity and optimism he began.
A half a million fans welcomed the Croatia national team on their return home from Russia, and while the squad isn’t entirely the same from the World Cup (Mandžukić, Subašić, and Ćorluka have retired) Dalić has found new forces, with Vlašić, Brekalo and Jedvaj proving they deserve a place among Croatia’s best.
3. Dinamo to play Europa League in the spring for the first time in almost 50 years
This year, Croatian clubs even had success, as Dinamo impressively dominated their Europa League group. In the first four matches of the Europa League, Dinamo scored the maximum of 12 points, and after 49 years, the Zagreb club will play Europe in the spring once again.
Dinamo also became the third Croatian club to play a ‘European spring’ since Croatia’s independence after Hajduk played in the Champions League in the 1994/95 season and Varteks in the last edition of the 1998/99 Cup Winners’ Cup.
4. Croatia upset Argentina, England, and Spain, and never played bigger games
In 2018, Croatia played 17 matches and concluded the year (as the World Cup finalists) at Wembley. In these 17 games, Croatia achieved eight wins (counting Croatia’s extra-time victory against England in the semi-finals of the World Cup), four draws (including the games against Denmark and Russia at the World Cup where the games went to penalties), and five defeats.
This year, Croatia lost to Peru, Brazil, France, Spain and England – and in a single year, they met England three times, Spain twice, and Brazil, Argentina, France, Portugal and Mexico – the cream of the international football crop.
The fans especially enjoyed Croatia’s wins against Argentina, England and Spain, which will be remembered for a long time to come.
5. Croatian fans are the best in the world
The red and white checkers were transmitted to the world from Russia this summer – from Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod to Kaliningrad. Croatian fans showed their pride at Maksimir against Spain, and at Wembley, they were represented by more than 3,000.
Croatian fans went without incident this year, and without hooliganism, to once again convince the world they are among the best.
To read more about the Croatian national team, follow TCN’s dedicated page here.
All photos by Slobodan Kadić