Croatia national football team: Wikis


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Shirt badge/Association crest
Nickname(s) Vatreni (The Blazers)
Association Hrvatski Nogometni Savez
Confederation UEFA (Europe)
Head coach Croatia Slaven Bilić
Asst coach Croatia Aljoša Asanović
Croatia Nikola Jurčević
Croatia Marijan Mrmić
Croatia Robert Prosinečki
Captain Darijo Srna
Most caps Dario Šimić (100)
Top scorer Davor Šuker (45)
Home stadium Maksimir Stadium
FIFA ranking 11
Highest FIFA ranking 3 (January 1999)
Lowest FIFA ranking 125 (March 1994)
Elo ranking 10
Highest Elo ranking 5 (July 1998)
Lowest Elo ranking 26 (October 2002)
Home colours
Away colours
First international
Croatia Croatia 4 – 0 Switzerland Switzerland
(Zagreb, Yugoslavia; April 2, 1940)
Biggest win
Croatia Croatia 7 – 0 Australia Australia
(Zagreb, Croatia; June 6, 1998)
Croatia Croatia 7 – 0 Andorra Andorra
(Zagreb, Croatia; October 7, 2006)
Biggest defeat
England England 5 – 1 Croatia Croatia
(London, England; September 9, 2009)
World Cup
Appearances 3 (First in 1998)
Best result 3rd, 1998
European Championship
Appearances 3 (First in 1996)
Best result Quarterfinals, 1996, 2008

The Croatia national football team represents Croatia in international football. The team is controlled by the Croatian Football Federation, the governing body for football in the country, and has been managed since 2006 by former player Slaven Bilić. A FIFA-recognized national side had previously represented the short-lived Banovina of Croatia and Independent State of Croatia in nineteen friendly matches between 1940 and 1944.[1] This team was dissolved in 1945 as Croatia became a constituent federal republic of SFR Yugoslavia. In the period between 1945 and 1990 Croatia did not field a separate team for competitive matches and Croatian players played for the Yugoslavia national football team.

The modern Croatian team was formed in 1990, shortly before Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia, and by 1993 had gained membership in FIFA and UEFA.[2] The team played their first competitive matches in the successful qualifying campaign for UEFA Euro 1996, leading to their first appearance at a major tournament.[1] In Croatia's FIFA World Cup debut in 1998 the team finished third and provided the tournament's top scorer, Davor Šuker. Since becoming eligible to compete in international tournaments, Croatia have missed only one World Cup and one European Championship.[3]

Most home matches are played at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, with some fixtures also taking place at the Poljud Stadium in Split or at other, smaller venues, depending on the nature of the match. The team was undefeated in its first 36 home competitive matches, the run ending with a 2008 defeat to England.[1][4][5][6]. They have not lost at home since then, meaning they have lost at home once in the past 20 years.

The team was named FIFA's "Best Mover of the Year" in 1994 and 1998, becoming the only team to win the award more than once.[7] On admission to FIFA, Croatia was ranked 125th in the world; following the 1998 World Cup campaign, the side ranked third, making it the most volatile team in FIFA Rankings history.[8][9][10]





Football was introduced to Croatia by English expatriates in Rijeka and Županja in 1873; the official rulebook was recognized in 1896. By 1908 local clubs had been established in Croatia and a modern edition of the sport's laws was published.[11] FIFA records document a Croatian national team playing a full-length fixture against domestic opposition in 1907.[2] Before the nation's independence, Croatian footballers played for the national teams of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1919–39) and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1945–90), though during periods of political upheaval, ethnically Croatian sides sometimes formed to play unofficial matches.[12] A hastily-arranged national side, managed by Hugo Kinert, played a few private domestic matches in 1918–19.[13][14]

The first recognized Croatian team played against Switzerland in 1940.

In 1940, Jozo Jakopić led an unofficial national team representing the Banovina of Croatia in four friendly matches: two against Switzerland and two against Hungary.[1] Croatia made their debut as an independently sanctioned team by defeating the Swiss 4–0 in Zagreb on April 2, 1940.[note 1] Following invasion by the Axis powers, the Croatian Football Federation became briefly active, joining FIFA on July 17, 1941 as the Independent State of Croatia. The national side, under the direction of Rudolf Hitrec, played fifteen friendly matches, fourteen as an official FIFA member.[2][15] Croatia's first recorded result as a FIFA associate was a 1–1 tie with Slovakia on September 8 in Bratislava.[1] Further matches were played until 1945 when the Independent State of Croatia was abolished and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia assumed control, thereby ending the team's affiliation with FIFA.[15]

From 1950 to 1956 another unofficial Croatian team was briefly active; it won games against Indonesia and a Yugoslav team playing as "Serbia".[14] The Yugoslavia squad at the 1956 Summer Olympics included Croatian footballers,[16] as did Yugoslavia in World Cup and European Championship tournaments up to 1990.[17][18]

Official formation

The last Yugoslav team to field a considerable Croatian contingent played against Sweden on May 16, 1991, days before Croatia's independence referendum.[19] Another Croatian team formed during this time; it played its first modern international game, against the United States, on October 17, 1990 at Maksimir Stadium. The game, which Croatia won 2–1,[20] was one of three games played under original manager Dražan Jerković. Croatia won twice more under his direction before Stanko Poklepović and Vlatko Marković each briefly headed the team. The match against the American side also marked the introduction of Croatia's national jersey. Designed with unique chequers, the initial kit was widely acknowledged for its originality.[21] Croatia was still considered part of Yugoslavia until its independence declaration on October 8, 1991, but this team already served as a de facto national team.[22][23]

In mid-1992 the team joined FIFA and UEFA. The team's performances before Croatia's independence were not recorded by FIFA, so they entered the World Rankings in 125th place.[3][10] Miroslav Blažević was appointed manager and oversaw the team's qualifying campaign for Euro 96, beginning with Croatia's first officially recognized post-independence victory: a 2–0 win over Estonia on September 4, 1994. Their first competitive defeat came on June 11, 1995, with a 1–0 away loss to Ukraine during the same qualifying campaign.[1] They finished on top of their qualifying group[24] and won FIFA's 1994 Best Mover of the Year award as their international rankings rose.[25]

"Golden Generation"

Croatia's 3-5-2 lineup during the 1998 World Cup. Initial striker Alen Bokšić was withdrawn due to injury.

Goran Vlaović scored the team's first goal at a major tournament, a late winner against Turkey at the City Ground during Euro 96.[26] After their opening victory Croatia beat reigning champions Denmark 3–0,[27] a match in which striker Davor Šuker scored with a lob from 12 yards after receiving a long pass. He later described the goal as a favourite.[28] Croatia lost 3–0 to Portugal in their final group fixture[29] but still advanced to the knockout stages, where they were beaten by eventual champions Germany in the quarter finals.[30]

Miroslav Blažević remained as manager during Croatia's 1998 World Cup qualifying campaign, which ended successfully with victory over Ukraine in the play-offs. In the group stage of the World Cup, Croatia beat Jamaica and Japan but lost to Argentina, before defeating Romania to reach a quarter final tie against Germany, then ranked second in the world.[31] Though regarded as underdogs, Croatia won 3–0, with goals from Robert Jarni, Goran Vlaović and Davor Šuker after Christian Wörns was sent off for Germany. Croatia faced the host nation, France, in the semi-final: after a goalless first-half, Croatia took the lead, only to concede two goals by opposing defender Lilian Thuram and lose 2–1. Croatia won third place by defeating the Netherlands, and Davor Šuker won the Golden Boot award for scoring the most goals in the tournament.[32] This was among the best debut performances in the World Cup, and as a result, Croatia were placed third in the January 1999 FIFA World Rankings, their highest ranking to date.[10][17] Croatia again won the Best Mover of the Year award in 1998.[7] For their achievements the team of the 1990s was dubbed the "Golden Generation".[33][34] Many of these players were also in the former Yugoslavia under-20 team which won the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship in Chile.

Despite these successes in their first two major competitions, Croatia finished third in their Euro 2000 qualifying group, behind Yugoslavia and Republic of Ireland, and thus failed to qualify.[35] Both fixtures between Croatia and Yugoslavia ended in draws; this fuelled the politically-based tension between fans of the two teams, and political protests broke out during the fixture in Belgrade.[36] The return match in Zagreb ended in a 2–2 draw, preventing Croatia from qualifying for the tournament.[28]

Decline under Jozić and Barić (early 2000s)

Coach Blažević resigned in autumn 2000 and Mirko Jozić was appointed his successor. Despite the retirement of many "Golden Generation" players, Croatia were unbeaten in their qualifying matches for the 2002 World Cup. They commenced the tournament campaign with a narrow loss to Mexico before producing a surprise 2–1 victory over Euro 2000 finalists Italy in the next fixture.[37][38] At the tournament the team blamed the pressure of high expectations[39] for their final fixture loss to Ecuador which prevented their progression to the knockout stages.[40] Jozić resigned and was replaced in July 2002 by former Fenerbahçe coach Otto Barić, the team's first manager born outside the Balkans.[41][42]

Under Barić Croatia performed indifferently in the Euro 2004 qualifiers, reaching the tournament finals with a playoff 2-1 on aggregate win against Slovenia, with Dado Pršo's crucial goal in the second leg.[43] At the tournament Croatia drew 2–2 with reigning champions France[44] but lost to England and were eliminated in the group stage.[45] Barić's two-year contract ended in July 2004 and was not renewed.[46]

Kranjčar and Bilić's revival

Former Croatia international Zlatko Kranjčar, appointed to succeed Barić in July 2004, oversaw Croatia's qualification for the 2006 World Cup without losing a match,[47][48] but was accused of nepotism for selecting his son Niko for the national squad.[49] Croatia lost their opening game to Brazil[50] and drew 0–0 with Japan after Dario Srna missed a first-half penalty.[51] A 2–2 draw with Australia, in which three players were sent off, confirmed Croatia's elimination at the group stage.[52] The game was notable also for a mistake by referee Graham Poll, who awarded three yellow cards to Croatia's Josip Šimunić.[note 2] Poll, heavily criticized for losing control of the match, retired from refereeing shortly afterwards.[53]

The HNS replaced Kranjčar with Slaven Bilić in July 2006.[54] Bilić appointed several younger players to the squad[55] and saw early success,[56][57][58] including a 2–0 friendly victory over Italy in his first match.[59] Having controversially suspended players Dario Srna, Ivica Olić and Boško Balaban for missing a curfew after a turbofolk nightclub outing,[60] Bilić led the team in qualification for Euro 2008; they topped their group,[61] losing only one game (to Macedonia) and beating England twice, who consequently failed to qualify for the first time since 1984.[62]

After primary striker Eduardo da Silva suffered a compound fracture while playing in the English Premier League, Bilić was forced to alter his tournament squad significantly[63][64] and recruited Nikola Kalinić and Nikola Pokrivač, neither of whom had yet played competitive games for the national team.[65][66] The team received criticism after poor attacking performances in warm-up games against Scotland and Moldova,[67][68] but at the tournament beat Austria, Germany, and Poland to reach the quarter finals with maximum group points for the first time in their tournament history.[69] Niko Kovač remained team captain at what was expected to be his final international tournament,[70] except in the final group fixture when Dario Šimić temporarily held the position.[71] Croatia's tournament run ended dramatically when they lost a penalty shoot-out to Turkey,[57][72][73] but secured the tournament record for fewest goals conceded (2), fewest games lost (0),[note 3] and earliest goal (in the fourth minute of their opening game against Austria—this was also the all-time earliest successful penalty at the European Championship Finals).[74]

Amidst speculation that he would quit,[75][76] manager Bilić renewed his contract, the first manager since Blažević to lead Croatia to successive tournaments.[77] Croatia were again drawn to play England in the qualification stages of the 2010 World Cup; the tie was voted the most anticipated of the campaign on[78] After a home win against Kazakhstan[79] Croatia lost at home to England, ending a fourteen-year unbeaten home record.[5] The team was eventually burdened with a number of key injuries and went on to suffer their heaviest defeat ever, losing 5-1 to England at Wembley Stadium. Although Croatia defeated Kazakhstan in their final qualifying fixture, they were ultimately eliminated after Ukraine, who had previously defeated group leaders England, beat Andorra to gain second place in the group. Bilić was once again heavily expected to resign as national coach, but instead vowed to renew his contract and remain in charge.

Despite heavy loss of form, which also saw the team fall outisde the top 10 in the FIFA rankings, Croatia were placed in the top tier of teams for the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying draw; the Croatian republic was previously a candidate to co-host the tournament with Hungary which would have allowed the team to qualify automatically. Instead chosen to be played in Poland and Ukraine, Croatia will ultimately compete in Group F for qualifying.

Tournament records

World Cup record

Croatia qualified for and competed in three consecutive World Cup finals between 1998 and 2006, but failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after finishing 3rd in Group 6 of their Qualification Group behind England, and Ukraine. Although they had joined both FIFA and UEFA by 1992, they were unable to enter the 1994 World Cup as qualification had started before the side was officially recognised.[80] The nation's best performance came in their first World Cup where they finished third. In their following two World Cup campaigns they were eliminated after finishing third in their groups.

Year Round Position Matches Wins Draws Losses GF GA
France 1998 Third place 3 7 5 0 2 11 5
South KoreaJapan 2002 Round 1 23 3 1 0 2 2 3
Germany 2006 Round 1 22 3 0 2 1 2 3
South Africa 2010 Did Not Qualify - - - - - - -
Total 3/4 - 13 6 2 5 15 11

European Championship record

Croatia's best results in UEFA Championships were quarter final finishes on their debut, in 1996, and in 2008. They did not qualify for the 2000 tournament. The HNS raised an unsuccessful joint bid with the Hungarian Football Federation to co-host the 2012 tournament, which was awarded instead to Poland and Ukraine.[81]

  • 1960 to 1992 – Could not enter.[note 6]
Year Round Matches Wins Draws Losses GF GA
England 1996 Quarter finals 4 2 0 2 5 5
BelgiumNetherlands 2000 Did not qualify - - - - - -
Portugal 2004 Round 1 3 0 2 1 4 6
AustriaSwitzerland 2008 Quarter finals 4 3 1 0 5 2
Total 3/4 11 5 3 3 14 13

Minor tournaments

Year Round Position Matches Wins Draws Losses GF GA
Morocco 1996 King Hassan II Tournament Winners 1 2 0 2 0 3 3
Japan 1997 Kirin Cup Group stage 2 2 0 1 1 4 5
South Korea 1999 Korea Cup Winners 1 3 1 2 0 5 4
Hong Kong 2006 Carlsberg Cup Third place 3 2 1 0 1 4 2
Total - 2 Titles 9 2 5 2 16 14



Before Croatia's independence distinct Croatian football federations and teams were occasionally formed separately from the official Yugoslavian organizations. Ivo Kraljević served as the manager of the initial federation, established in 1939, and organised non-sanctioned matches played by unofficial national squads up to 1956.[15] These temporary sides, playing non-competitive fixtures, were led by seven different managers.[note 7]

Statistically, Dražan Jerković and Vlatko Marković are the most successful managers in Croatia's history; they both recorded victories in each of their few games in charge. Miroslav Blažević, who was the team's first official manager, holds the highest number of competitive victories, having led Croatia to their best performances at major international tournaments.

Name Tenure Played Won Drawn Lost Win % Points per game[note 8] Achievements
Croatia Jerković, DražanDražan Jerković 1990–1991 3 3 0 0 100.00 3.00
Croatia Poklepović, StankoStanko Poklepović 1992 4 1 1 2 25.00 1.00
Croatia Marković, VlatkoVlatko Marković 1993 1 1 0 0 100.00 3.00
Croatia Blažević, MiroslavMiroslav Blažević 1994–2000 73 36 22 15 49.31 1.78 1996 Euro - quarter final
1998 World Cup - third place
Croatia Jozić, MirkoMirko Jozić 2000–2002 18 9 6 3 50.00 1.83 2002 World Cup - group stage
Croatia Barić, OttoOtto Barić 2002–2004 24 11 8 5 45.83 1.70 2004 Euro - group stage
Croatia Kranjčar, ZlatkoZlatko Kranjčar 2004–2006 25 11 8 6 44.00 1.64 2006 World Cup - group stage
Croatia Bilić, SlavenSlaven Bilić 2006–present 39 28 7 4 71.79 2.33 2008 Euro - quarter final
Totals 187 100 52 34 53.47 1.88
Last updated: Belgium 0–1 Croatia, 3 March 2010. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

Most appearances

# Name Clubs[note 9] Croatia career Caps Goals
1 Dario Šimić Dinamo Zagreb, Internazionale, Milan, Monaco 1996–2008 100 3
2 Robert Kovač Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich,
Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Dinamo Zagreb
1999–2009 84 0
3 Niko Kovač Bayer Leverkusen, HSV, Bayern Munich,
Hertha Berlin, Red Bull Salzburg
1996–2008 83 15
4 Robert Jarni Hajduk Split, Bari, Torino, Juventus, Real Betis,
Real Madrid, Las Palmas, Panathinaikos
1990–2002 81 1
5 Stipe Pletikosa Hajduk Split, Shakhtar Donetsk, Spartak Moscow 1999–present 79 0
6 Josip Šimunić Hertha Berlin, Hoffenheim 2001–present 77 3
7 Darijo Srna Hajduk Split, Shakhtar Donetsk 2002–present 72 18
=8 Davor Šuker[28] Dinamo Zagreb, Sevilla, Real Madrid,
Arsenal, West Ham United, 1860 Munich
1990–2002 69 45
=8 Ivica Olić NK Zagreb, Dinamo Zagreb, CSKA Moscow,
Hamburger SV, Bayern Munich
2002–present 69 13
10 Aljoša Asanović Metz, Cannes, Montpellier, Hajduk Split, Real Valladolid,
Derby County, Napoli, Panathinaikos
1990–2000 62 4
Last updated: Belgium 0–1 Croatia, 3 March 2010. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

Top goalscorers

# Name Croatia career Goals Caps
1 Davor Šuker[28] 1990–2002 45 69
=2 Darijo Srna 2002–present 18 72
=2 Eduardo da Silva 2004–present 18 29
4 Goran Vlaović 1992–2002 16 52
5 Niko Kovač 1996–2008 15 83
6 Ivica Olić 2002–present 13 69
=7 Zvonimir Boban 1991–1999 12 51
=7 Ivan Klasnić 2004–present 12 39
=9 Robert Prosinečki 1993–2002 11 49
=9 Mladen Petrić 2001–present 11 35
Last updated: Belgium 0–1 Croatia, 3 March 2010. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

1940s participants

From 1940 to 1944 FIFA affiliated national teams played under the banner of the Independent State of Croatia nineteen friendly matches, of which it won nine, drew four and lost six. Twelve players scored for the team during this period.

# Name Croatia career Goals Caps Average
1 Franjo Wölfl 1940–1944 13 18 0.72
2 Zvonimir Cimermančić 1940–1944 8 17 0.47
3 August Lešnik 1940–1944 6 9 0.66
=4 Milan Antolković 1940–1943 3 9 0.33
=4 Branko Pleše 1941–1944 3 13 0.23
=6 Slavko Pavletić 1941–1942 2 4 0.50
=6 Mirko Kokotović 1940–1944 2 15 0.13
=8 Slavko Beda 1941 1 1 1.00
=8 Antun Lokošek 1944 1 1 1.00
=8 Zvonko Jazbec 1940 1 3 0.33
=8 Florijan Matekalo 1940 1 4 0.25
=8 Ratko Kacijan 1940–1943 1 10 0.10


Current squad

Croatia's current squad, formed to compete against Belgium in a friendly match on March 3, was announced on February 17, 2010 by head coach Slaven Bilić.
Keeper Stipe Pletikosa was ineligible due to injury.

Caps and goals are as of March 3, 2010 and the conclusion of the last match vs Belgium.

No. Pos. Player DoB (Age) Caps Goals Club
12 GK Vedran Runje February 10, 1976 (1976-02-10) (age 34) 13 0 France Lens
23 GK Danijel Subašić October 27, 1984 (1984-10-27) (age 25) 1 0 Croatia Hajduk Split
2 DF Dejan Lovren June 5, 1989 (1989-06-05) (age 20) 3 0 France Lyon
3 DF Josip Šimunić (vice-captain) February 18, 1978 (1978-02-18) (age 32) 77 3 Germany Hoffenheim
4 DF Ivica Križanac April 13, 1979 (1979-04-13) (age 30) 11 0 Russia Zenit St. Petersburg
5 DF Vedran Ćorluka February 6, 1986 (1986-02-06) (age 24) 37 1 England Tottenham Hotspur
15 DF Dario Knežević Cruz Roja.svg April 20, 1982 (1982-04-20) (age 27) 13 1 Italy Livorno
22 DF Hrvoje Čale March 4, 1985 (1985-03-04) (age 25) 3 0 Turkey Trabzonspor
6 MF Danijel Pranjić December 2, 1981 (1981-12-02) (age 28) 29 0 Germany Bayern Munich
7 MF Ivan Rakitić January 10, 1988 (1988-01-10) (age 22) 25 7 Germany Schalke 04
8 MF Ognjen Vukojević December 20, 1983 (1983-12-20) (age 26) 20 2 Ukraine Dynamo Kyiv
10 MF Luka Modrić September 9, 1985 (1985-09-09) (age 24) 37 7 England Tottenham Hotspur
11 MF Darijo Srna (captain) May 1, 1982 (1982-05-01) (age 27) 72 18 Ukraine Shakhtar Donetsk
13 MF Nikola Pokrivač November 26, 1985 (1985-11-26) (age 24) 11 0 Austria Red Bull Salzburg
14 MF Drago Gabrić October 27, 1986 (1986-10-27) (age 23) 2 0 Turkey Trabzonspor
16 MF Tomislav Dujmović February 26, 1981 (1981-02-26) (age 29) 2 0 Russia Lokomotiv Moscow
19 MF Niko Kranjčar August 13, 1984 (1984-08-13) (age 25) 55 10 England Tottenham Hotspur
9 FW Eduardo February 25, 1983 (1983-02-25) (age 27) 29 18 England Arsenal
17 FW Mario Mandžukić May 21, 1986 (1986-05-21) (age 23) 11 1 Croatia Dinamo Zagreb
18 FW Ivica Olić September 14, 1979 (1979-09-14) (age 30) 69 13 Germany Bayern Munich
20 FW Mate Bilić October 23, 1980 (1980-10-23) (age 29) 3 2 Spain Sporting de Gijón
21 FW Mladen Petrić Cruz Roja.svg January 1, 1981 (1981-01-01) (age 29) 35 11 Germany HSV

Cruz Roja.svg withdrew due to injury

UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying

Group F

Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 Croatia 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 Greece 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 Israel 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 Latvia 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 Malta 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Dario Šimić, with 100 appearances before his 2008 retirement, is Croatia's most capped international player, surpassing Robert Jarni's record of 81 appearances.[82][83][84]

With 45 goals scored, Davor Šuker is Croatia's highest-scoring player. He was named Croatia's "Golden Player" at the UEFA jubilee celebration in 2004 in recognition of this achievement.[28] Darijo Srna is in a distant second position with 17 goals (as of September 2008).[85] Mladen Petrić holds the national team record for goals in a single match, having scored four times during Croatia's 7–0 home victory over Andorra on October 7, 2006.[86]

The national team's joint record for highest-scoring victory comes from two 7–0 results, over Andorra in 2006 and Australia in 1998. Croatia's worst defeat is also a joint record, the Independent State of Croatia side having twice lost 5–1 defeats to Germany in the 1940s. In the modern era Croatia lost 4–1 to Slovakia in a 1994 friendly and 3–0 to Portugal at Euro 96. The worst defeat in the modern period was the 5–1 loss to England in the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.[1]


The Croatian team is a fully licensed member of FIFA and UEFA. FIFA governs Croatia's participation in global international tournaments including the FIFA World Cup;[87] UEFA presides over European tournaments.[88]

The team is also governed by the Croatian Football Federation, which governs domestic football under FIFA and UEFA affiliation. The federation is led by Vlatko Marković, who represents the team in conferences. The federation (abbreviated HNS) governs player registration and selects the team coaching staff and pays players' salaries. Head coach Slaven Bilić selects and organises national squad players and enforces team policies.[89]


Most home matches take place at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb. The venue, built 1912 and refurbished in 1997, is named after the surrounding neighbourhood of Maksimir.[90] The stadium has hosted national games since Croatia's competitive home debut against Lithuania; it also hosted the Croatian teams' home matches during World War II.[1] The football federation and the Croatian government have agreed further improvements (among them an increase in the current forty-thousand seating capacity) that would make Maksimir the most expensive football stadium in the world.[90][91] However, in 2008, UEFA threatened to limit the number of fans allowed to attend home games after crowd discipline problems during the European Championships.[92] Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić declined the final renovation plans in 2008, citing high construction costs; as of December 2008 the renovations are postponed.[93]

Home matches have occasionally been played at other venues. The Poljud Stadium in Split hosted several qualifying fixtures for Euro 1996 and the 1998 World Cup. The team also played qualifying matches at the Gradski vrt stadium in Osijek and the NK Varteks stadium in Varaždin. The last competitive match outside Maksimir took place in 2003 when Croatia beat Andorra in Euro 2004 qualifying.[note 10]

Home venues record

Since Croatia's first fixture (October 17, 1990 vs. United States) they have played home games at nine stadiums.

Venue City Played Won Drawn Lost GF GA Points per game
Stadion Maksimir Zagreb 43 29 12 2 94 23 2.30
Stadion na Kantridi Rijeka 10 9 1 0 17 4 2.80
Gradski stadion u Poljudu Split 9 0 6 3 7 12 0.66
Stadion Anđelko Herjavec Varaždin 6 4 2 0 12 3 2.33
Stadion Gradski vrt Osijek 5 3 2 0 14 5 2.20
Stadion u Kranjčevićevoj ulici Zagreb 1 1 0 0 3 0 3.00
Stadion Šubićevac Šibenik 1 0 1 0 2 2 1.00
Stadion Aldo Drosina Pula 1 0 0 1 1 2 0.00
Stadion HNK Cibalia Vinkovci 1 1 0 0 5 0 3.00
Totals 77 47 24 6 155 51 2.14
Last updated: Croatia 5–0 Liechtenstein, 14 November, 2009. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.

Team image


Croatia's checkered kit is well known around the World due to its originality

Under the official FIFA Trigramme the team’s name is abbreviated as CRO; this acronym is used to identify the team in FIFA and media.[94] The team is also identified under the International Organization for Standardization country code for Croatia, HRV.[95] "Croatia national football team" can be translated into Croatian as "Hrvatska nogometna reprezentacija" (pronounced: xř̩.ʋaː.ʦkaː nɔːɠɔːmɛtnaː ɾɛpɾɛzɛntaːtsijaː). Among the team's nicknames are Vatreni ("The Blazers") and, more recently, "Bilić Boys" (from the name of the coach, Slaven Bilić).[96]


Croatia's initial jersey was designed in 1990 by Miroslav Šutej, who also designed the nations coat of arms. The design of red and white checkers was formed in response to the United states national teams design of unique stars on their jersey. Although slightly altered by Nike since its original release, the jersey has remained similar as a national identity; the checkered design is also used to represent other Croatian sports teams and athletes. [97]


Croatia's traditional training ground is located in Čatež, Slovenia, where the team prepares for all upcoming matches. However, the HNS has announced the production of a new training ground located in Tuhelj to accomodate further training improvements. [98]


Prominent among Croatia's supporters are followers of Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb, the two best-supported clubs in the Croatian domestic league, the Prva HNL.[99] The clubs' ultra-style supporter groups, the Bad Blue Boys of Zagreb and The Torcida from Split, have both been associated with hooliganism,[100][101] though violence between the two is not reported at international games.[102] Croatia's supporters are collectively affiliated with Uvijek Vjerni (translated as 'Always Faithful'), which is the national team's official fan association aiming to bring together all fans around the world.[103]

A Croatian crowd celebrate with flares following Croatia's victory over Germany in 2008.

Nonetheless, fan behavior at international games has led to international sanction against the side. Croatia was penalized and threatened with expulsion from UEFA for racist behaviour by fans at Euro 2004[104] On other occasions Croatia fans defied security regulations. During the 2006 World Cup a fan evaded security at a German venue and approached Croatian players on the field; he was arrested for trespassing.[105] During a friendly match against Italy in Livorno, a small group of Croatian fans stood in a swastika formation in response to Italians fans waving communist flags; UEFA penalized the Croatian football federation for the incident.[104][106] Similar events occurred at Euro 2008; UEFA penalized Croatia for a display of racist banners against Turkey[107] and FIFA fined the Croatian football federation for racial abuse of England striker Emile Heskey on September 10, 2008.[108]

Croatia fans often use flares in both domestic league derby matches and in international games,[109][110][111] a practice which, according to agent Igor Štimac and midfielder Luka Modrić, motivates the Croatian team.[112][113] The practice is banned at most international games and Croatia fans have been reprimanded and had devices confiscated by UEFA and FIFA security staff.[114] Croatia fans also clashed with Turkish Muslims during a Euro 2008 game against Turkey. Security was tightened when Croats and Turks gathered in Vienna shortly before the quarter final game of the tournament; after the match, Croatian fans resisted police and brawled with Turkish fans.[115]

Tensions with fans of sides from other former Yugoslav states have also manifested at Croatia games. Croatia fans in the crowd at a June 3, 1990 game between Yugoslavia and the Netherlands booed the Yugoslavian national anthem and players and cheered for the Dutch side instead.[116] Maksimir Stadium was the scene of a riot between Croat and Serb fans at a Dinamo Zagreb – Red Star Belgrade game following the parliamentary election the same year.[117] During the 2006 World Cup brawls broke out between Bosniaks and Croats in Mostar.[118]

Media and public relations

Franjo Tuđman, the first president of Croatia, kept a strong relationship with the national team during his reign and credited their contribution towards the formation of a sovereign Croatian republic.

Football is Croatia's most popular team sport[119] and occupied a large role in the country's independent break-up from Yugoslavia. Nationalism grew heavily during the team's formation in the 1990s when Franjo Tuđman was elected president. By competing separately in both official and unofficial matches, the national team strengthened the unity of Croatian culture, an accomplishment which the predominant Catholic Church and economy were criticized for failing.[120] Furthermore, Tuđman’s correlation with the national team became a strong force towards becoming a patriotic Croatian state. After Croatia’s success at the 1998 World Cup, Tuđman declared that "football victories shape a nation’s identity as much as wars".[120] The team’s unanimous support grew largely after such attention from the political party. American politician and diplomat Strobe Talbott predicted Croatia’s growth in football to influence that of the nation itself.[121] The national team were greeted by Tuđman and 100,000 residents from all around the country after their return from the World Cup. Tuđman spoke on behalf of the supporters by honouring the squad upon their appearance.

It is my honour on behalf of the Croatian state leadership, to congratulate the players of the Croatian soccer representation for their great results at the World Cup. By reaching these heights, dear soccer players, you have contributed to Croatia which stood behind you in Zagreb. During your matches, the entire Croatian people, numbering some eight-million from the homeland and abroad stood behind you. You have given a great contribution to raising Croatia’s reputation in the world. Your magnificent success is a great contribution to the now Independent State of Croatia.[121]

When connections between the team and political parties was strong, concerns of fascism arose. Though the relationship between the team and any political party has waned since Tuđman's death in 1999,[122] the team (and football) remain patriotic traditions in Croatia.[123]

The team also receive constant media attention; their games are regularly broadcast live on Croatia's principal station HRT.[124] Shortly after becoming manager, Slaven Bilić and his rock band released a single, "Vatreno Ludilo" (Fiery Madness), which recalled the team's progress during the 1998 World Cup and praised their present ambitions. The song reached the top position on the Croatian music charts and was widely played during Euro 2008.[125][126] Because of Bilić's enthusiasm,[127][128] the team was dubbed "Bilić's Boys".[96] Other Croatian artists such as Dino Dvornik, Connect, Prljavo Kazalište and Baruni have recorded songs in support of the team, among which are "Malo Nas Je al Nas Ima" (We are few, but we are many), "Samo je Jedno" (There is but one thing [in my life]), "Moj Dom je Hrvatska" (My Home is Croatia), "Srce Vatreno" (Heart of Fire), and "Hrvatska je Prvak Svijeta" (Croatia[ns] are world champions).[note 11]

Additionally, the team adopted the song "Lijepa li si" (How beautiful you are) by rock band Thompson,[129] mainly because of its similarity to the Croatian national anthem.[note 12] Many of Thompson's songs have been played during significant games; however, when Croatia faced Israel in a home qualifying fixture, Thompson songs were not played due to Jewish organisations' criticism of the band. At the conclusion of the match, the squad and management team voiced their concerns and opposed the allegations of the band's racism.[130][131]

See also


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  1. ^ Previous matches played by unofficial and temporary Croatian teams were still considered as a part of Yugoslavia. However, the side representing the Banovina of Croatia was separately recognized as the temporary puppet state was momentarily separated from Yugoslavia.
  2. ^ The rules of Association football state that on receiving a second yellow card in a single match a player must be given a red card and be removed for the rest of the match. Laws of the game
  3. ^ Under the rules of Association football and the official European Championship tournament regulations, a loss inflicted via a penalty shootout does not count as a defeat, but rather a tie which needed a final process to determine the team which advances. Laws of the game
  4. ^ Was part of Yugoslavia.
  5. ^ Was not a full FIFA member until July 1992, qualifications for this tournament already began prior to their independence acknowledgment.
  6. ^ Croatia was part of Yugoslavia and unable to participate separately.
  7. ^ The following organisers led the national team as 'managers':
  8. ^ Calculated by multiplying wins by three, plus draws, divided by games played.
  9. ^ Only clubs played for while receiving caps are listed.
  10. ^ A comprehensive list of national team games on 'Sve O Sportu' shows each home game played by Croatia. The team listed in the first column is the home team, and the last column identifies the host stadium.
  11. ^ "Here are the best, and the worst of the Croatian Football Anthems." Football anthems refer to unofficial fan songs preferred by supporters, which can be found at ''. Croatian football anthems.
  12. ^ Bilingual comparison of song lyrics: Croatian national anthem and How beautiful you are


  • Ramet. P, Sabrina (2005). Thinking about Yugoslavia. Cambridge University. ISBN 0521851513. 
  • Klemenčić, Mladen (2004). Nogometni leksikon. Miroslav Krleža lexicographic institute. ISBN 9536036843. 
  • Perica, Vjekoslav (2002). Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States. Oxford US. ISBN 0195174291. 
  • Foster, Jane (2004). Footprint Croatia. Footprint Travel Guides. ISBN 1903471796. 
  • Bellamy. J, Alex (2003). The Formation of Croatian National Identity. Manchester University Press. ISBN 071906502X. 
  • Giulianotti, Richard (1997). Entering the Field: New Perspectives on World Football. Berg Publishers. ISBN 1859731988. 

External links



News and fans

Simple English

Association Croatian Football Federation
Confederation UEFA
Coach Slaven Bilić
Most caps Dario Šimić (100)
Top scorer Davor Šuker (45)
World Cup
Appearances 3
First Apps 1998
Best result 3rd (1998)

Croatia national football team is the national football team of Croatia.

Most appearances

1Dario Šimić10031996-present
2Niko Kovač83151996-present
3Robert Jarni8111996-present
3Robert Kovač8101999-present
5Stipe Pletikosa7801999-present
6Josip Šimunić7132001-present
7Davor Šuker69451990-2002
8Darijo Srna63171990-2002
8Ivica Olić63111990-2002
10Aljoša Asanović6241990-2000

Top scorers

1Davor Šuker45691990-2002
2Darijo Srna17632002-present
3Goran Vlaović16521992-2002
4Niko Kovač15831996-present
5Eduardo da Silva13232004-present
6Zvonimir Boban12511991-1999
7Ivica Olić11632002-present
7Robert Prosinečki11491993-2002
9Mladen Petrić10322001-present
9Ivan Klasnić10342004-present
9Boško Balaban10352000-present
9Alen Bokšić10401993-2002


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