11 July will forever be etched in Croatian football history as it is the date which the nation achieved its biggest ever success – bronze at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.
19 years ago, on the night of 11 July 1998, Croatia lifted themselves from a heart-breaking 2-1 semi-final loss against France to beat Netherlands by the same scoreline in the 3rd and 4th playoff match.
Goals from Robert Prosinečki and Davor Šuker, which gave the Croatian striker the Golden Boot title, were enough to give Croatia the win and bronze on that famous night.
Croatia opened their World Cup campaign with a 3-1 win over Jamaica, before securing qualification to the second round with a 1-0 win over Japan. In their final group match, Miroslav Blazevic’s side lost to group favourites Argentina 1-0 to finish second.
In the second round a Šuker penalty, which he was forced to take twice, was enough to send the Croatians into the quarter-final.
The quarter-final victory against four-time FIFA World Cup winners Germany is still one of Croatia’s most famous wins and it set up a semi-final against the hosts France.
A great goal just after half-time from Šuker gave Croatia a 1-0 lead and one foot in the World Cup final. However, the party was spoiled by Lilian Thuram, whose only two goals for France in his 14-year career, within 20 minutes of each other, destroyed Croatia’s dream.
Croatia picked themselves up just days later from the loss and showed great heart in beating a strong Netherlands side 2-1. Great goalkeeping from Drazen Ladic and Šuker’s sixth goal in seven games paved the way for the historic win.
The 1998 FIFA World Cup in France was the first time Croatia participated in the event and will forever live in Croatian sports history as one of the nation’s finest moments. Check out the highlights below.