On July 4, 1998, Croatia defeated the favorite, Germany, in the World Cup quarterfinal.
While we await the big quarterfinal match against Russia (Saturday, 20:00), our current Croatia team, who were just boys in 1998 that fell in love with every move of Šuker, Boban, Prosinecki, Bilic, and Ladić … now have the opportunity to repeat and surpass the success of the Bronze Generation. On this day, we remember the biggest Croatian victory of all time, exactly 20 years ago, reports Goal.hr on July 4, 2018.
On July 4, 1998, in Lyon, the Croatia national team crushed the current European champion, Germany, 3:0 in the quarterfinal. Croatia’s coach at the time, Miroslav Ćiro Blažević, had to compete in the quarterfinal without Robert Prosinečki and made only one substitution to the starting 11.
German defender Christian Wörns was given a direct red card in the 40th minute as the last defender in a duel with Šuker, and in front of 39,100 spectators in Lyon at the Stade de Gerland, Robert Jarni scored in the 45th minute, Goran Vlaović in the 80th, and Davor Šuker in the 85th minute.
Afterward, Croatia lost to France and defeated the Netherlands to win the bronze of the 1998 World Cup. In the following 2002 World Cup, Croatia was eliminated in the group stage, while Germany lost in the finals to Brazil.
In all of the World Cups over the last 20 years, the farthest Croatia has gone in the World Cup was that of 1998 in the semifinal.
What did the Croatia players have to say about their victory over Germany?
After Euro 1996, we had a terrible feeling because we felt that we were the best in that contest, that we belonged in it. And we could hardly wait for the chance to get them back.
In the first 15 minutes, we did not break into their goal, and they attacked us. Ladić played the game of his life. Even when the Germans played with a man down, you didn’t feel it on the pitch. They still attacked and we defended ourselves as we could. And then I scored for 2:0… and today I am asked what went through my head in the glorious celebration. And I just felt like, ‘It’s over, we’ve won.’
When I recall these games, the great victory over Germany, I immediately smile. The emotions are amazing, yet it is one of the greatest successes of the Croatia national team in history and perhaps our sport in general. I’m proud that I was part of that story, now that I look back at it – it was a long time ago.
I do not watch the recordings of my matches, but I know that match in the head. My goal was extremely important and we all had a certain peace on the field. Ten minutes before the end of the match, we were up 2:0, we had more players, we became aware that our advantage over Germany was unmatched. In my career, I scored more beautiful and better goals, but this was of particular importance to us.
My celebration? It was sportsmanlike and correct. I did not run wildly on the pitch, I just raised my hands and shook my head – it was a great sigh of relief. A sign that it’s almost over, that we’re going to the semifinals. It was a spontaneous celebration, I never celebrated my goals before. And if you want me to be honest: after 80 minutes of a tough match against Germany, I did not have the strength for some kind of extravagant celebration on the field.
We played in zones and after 20 minutes, Bilić and I switched so that he marked Bierhoff – because he could jump and I could not – and I marked the faster Klinsmann. And we stopped them.
When the ball went into the goal (that was my only goal for Croatia in my career), all of the anger was released from me because I wanted to win over Germany so badly. I remembered how we were better two years before in England and dropped out and then that inexplicable emotion came out of me. Stanić tried to play the ball for Vlaović but the ball was behind him. I followed it, and I was in dilemma of whether I should take them one-on-one or shoot. I shot to the far left, and in the perfect path, the ball hit the low corner of Köpke’s goal. This is my favorite career goal.
Croatia: Ladić – Šimić, Štimac, Bilić – Stanić, Soldo, Boban, Asanović, Jarni – Vlaović (from 83. Marić), Šuker.
Germany: Köpke – Wörns, Matthäus, Kohler – Heinrich, Hamann (from 79. Marschall), Jeremies, Hässler (od 69. Kirsten), Tarnat – Bierhoff, Klinsmann. Coach: Bertie Vogts.