We here at Visit Croatia will have a very tough evening of it tomorrow. (Not as hard as the two teams on the pitch…but close.) As evidenced by our website, we’re obviously based in the UK and are English. And as also evidenced by our website…we’re also Croatian!
When the 2018 World Cup kicked off on 14th June, never in our wildest dreams would we think that one of our teams would make it to the semi-finals. To have both our teams make it is unbelievable. Two have both our teams make it and play each other is…oh, what?
As a friend pointed out – “you’ll be the crazy person cheering everyone” during the match, which is very true! If Kane heads a chance just wide, we will be exclaiming “Argh!! NOOOO!!” or “HA HA!! YES!!”? If Pickford saves a long range shot from Modric, we will shout “What a shot!!” or “What a save!!”?
Maybe we’ll just keep our mouth shut, sipping a cup of tea and/or sljivovica to calm our nerves.
Wonder what a sljivovica & tea cocktail tastes like…
England and Croatia at World Cups
In the last World Cup in Brazil four years ago, neither team even made it out of the group stage. Croatia had a disappointing go of it, finishing third in their group (behind Brazil and Mexico), but at least winning one match (a 4-0 victory against Cameroon). England had an even worse time of it, ending up bottom of their group and getting only one point – thanks to a dismal 0-0 draw with Costa Rica.
It can’t have escaped the notice of anyone in England that the last time they reached the World Cup semi-final was in 1990 – when 16 players of the current England squad weren’t even born. By contrast, 10 of the Croatian squad hadn’t been born yet either…but neither had the entire country! (Croatia only gained independence in 1991.)
Croatia were last (and only) in a World Cup semi-final in 1998, when the ‘dream team’ made up of star players such as Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban, Slaven Bilic, Igor Stimac, Robert Prosinecki and more ended up finishing an absolutely remarkable third. (Not forgetting a stunning 3-0 victory against Germany in the quarter finals along the way.) Davor Suker was even the Golden Boot winner of that World Cup.
Funnily enough, if England had topped their group instead of losing to Romania in their last game – pushing them into second place – they actually would have played Croatia instead of Argentina.
And not lost on penalties.
And probably not had Beckham sent off either.
Croatia v England through the years
The two countries have obviously played each other a number of times over the years, but no match has ever been as important as tomorrow’s game.
The next closest was a game in the group stages of Euro 2004, when England won 4-2 and a teenage Wayne Rooney scored twice.
There’s been plenty of other memorable moments, of course. Who can forget the ‘wally with a brolly’ Steve McLaren, sheltering under a huge umbrella at the side of a very soggy Wembley pitch in 2007 when Croatia unexpectedly beat England 3-2 – completely ruining their chances of qualifying for the Euros?
Or Paul Robinson (not Jim’s son and Scott’s brother – the goalie version instead) scoring a bizarre own goal as Borat looked on, leering. (Watch the video, you’ll see what I mean.)
The very first time the two sides ever met was at a friendly in the ‘old’ Wembley on 24th April 1996. And Visit Croatia was there! I can’t proclaim it was a brilliant match (it was a largely boring 0-0 draw), but it was incredibly exciting to see Croatia play England for the first time, especially in that magical arena. Check out the programme and the squads from that day:
Croatia v England, 11th July 2018
To look at it on the positive side – at least we’ll have one team in the World. Cup. Final. (Wow!! We can’t believe it!)
All we can say is – may the best team win.
(Just not on penalties.
We’ve already suffered through the drama of three penalty shootouts and we can’t take another one.)