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World Cup: Why Croatia Are International Football’s Team Of Destiny

Supporters hold Croatia's flag in Moscow on July 10, 2018 a day prior the semi-final match England v Croatia during the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. (Photo by Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP) (Photo credit should read MAXIM ZMEYEV/AFP/Getty Images)
World Cup: Why Croatia Are International Football’s Team Of Destiny

I will admit this: even though my main team in the FIFA World Cup is France, there is a part of me that wants the Vatreni of Croatia to reach football immortality and consequently (if all goes right) send all of its players to Champions League sides. Who else but a proven club world champion in Luka Modric to captain a legit, bona fide, genuine, one of a kind international football team of destiny?

The stars were perhaps aligned for this. 20 years and a week ago to the day of this year’s final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, over at the Stade de France, Croatia danced with the final in the semis and it was Lilian Thuram, the father of current Ligue 1 star Marcus Thuram, whose brace in the 47th and 69th minutes sent Croatia packing 2-1 at the hands of Les Bleus.

In the 46th minute of that match, a man by the name of Davor Suker opened the scoring for Croatia, whose lead would be short lived early in the second half. Today, Suker continues his work with the world game as president of the Croatian Football Federation, the Hrvatski Nogametni Savez.

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A generation has passed since that fateful meeting at La Stade, and now with a new golden generation of proven talent, proven winners, proven experience and a proven package of skill, grace, and football mastery beyond their years, Croatia enter uncharted territory and now get to play in a World Cup Final and also have a golden chance to avenge 1998, even the score, and forever be remembered at 2018’s team of destiny.

If you are a fairweather casual, or someone just discovering this sport, or someone that likes a feel-good underdog story, you need to support Croatia right now. The USMNT’s Christian Pulisic has Croatian heritage, and he could have been on the Vatreni and experienced the magic of playing in a World Cup Final for the first time ever.

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And if you think there are any main scorers on this side, think again. They are balanced, tenacious, and work as a team. There is discipline, camaraderie, chemistry, the type of package that can win a league title in any of the five big leagues in Europe. The aforementioned Modric only has two goals so far, but he is the top scorer on the team, a testament to the balance attack of this Vatreni lineup.

Indeed, Australia, Chile, Argentina and Canada have strong Croatian communities, but believe it or not, the strongest Croatian overseas community is here in the United States, with over 400,000 strong, with Pittsburgh and Chicago being noteworthy.

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But even if you are not Croatian, you just can’t help but want to see this first-time finalist strike gold at the first hurdle. They are older and more experienced than France’s youth face showcase and this could be the very last chance that they make history for their nation and the world.

The French Team may be the favorites, but football has an innate skill…of teasing the punters, the experts, the pundits. Ever since the game first began under its current Laws of the Game more than a century ago, it’s been keen to surprise when the football gods call for game balance. Therefore, don’t be surprised if Croatia gets its revenge and lifts the trophy. Besides, they were the ones who eliminated Russia, and France DID stumble in their last big final (against Portugal in their own house) so the 2018 FIFA World Cup is very much Croatia’s to win.

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@joryansalazar

Jo-Ryan Salazar is a writer for The Stoppage Time, a soccer blog powered by Azteca Soccer. A supporter of the Los Angeles Galaxy since 1996 and a committed supporter since 2002, Jo-Ryan also follows Chelsea FC, Melbourne Victory, FC Tokyo and Paris Saint-Germain. Apart from soccer, Jo-Ryan is an administrative assistant for a local nonprofit in Long Beach, California and also does photography, photo-editing and fictional writing.

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