The spectacle drew over 30,000 fans to Maksimir stadium in Zagreb.
On October 17, 1990, the Croatia national football team played a friendly game against the USA (2:1), which is counted as the first official game under the Croatian flag, reports Index.hr on October 17, 2018.
Croatia’s game against the United States that October had significant political and sporting significance. It was the first time Croatia was internationally recognized in sport, and the game was used to celebrate the return of the Ban Josip Jelačić monument to Zagreb’s central square.
The team that played then, however, was not the official Croatia national team. At the time, Croatia was still part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and some of the players, as well as the legendary coach Dražan Jerković, were under great pressure – they even received suggestions they should not play at all as bigger problems could arise.
Jerković had a tough job compiling a team for the meeting, also considering that at the same time, the U21 selection of Yugoslavia, which included Boban, Šuker, Jarni, Štimac, Prosinečki and Bokšić, had a match against the USSR.
However, Jerković and HNS officials managed to create a respectable team which included Drazen Ladić, Zoran Vulić, Drago Čelić, Darko Dražić, Vlado Kasalo, Saša Peršon, Kujtim Shalla, Ivan Cvjetković, Aljoša Asanović, Marko Mlinarić, Tonči Gabrić, Gregor Židan and Mladen Mladenović, headed by captain Zlatko Kranjčar.
Aljoša Asanović scored the first historical goal for Croatia in the 29th minute, and four minutes later, Ivan Cvjetković scored for 2:0. Troy Dayak scored in the 80th minute for the US for a final score of 2:1.
Mladen Vedriš, who lead the Croatian Football Federation then, remembered the day.
“The manager of the USA team came to the mayor’s office and asked if we were interested in a friendly game. The US national team was on a tour of Europe to promote them hosting the World Cup in 1994. We knew it was dangerous. But at any price we wanted to play that game. These were the days when they had to hear about Croatia.”