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EU stats reveal why Croatia’s phenomenal sporting success is remarkable

24 September 2019 – Croatia has achieved remarkable sporting success since gaining independence in the early 1990s. Croatia has punched above its weight with major success in some of the world’s most competitive sports, leading Germany’s Bild magazine to declare Croatia the best sporting nation in the world.

The question asked often is how a country with a population of only around 4 million people has managed to excel so much on the international sporting stage. 

Statistics from Eurostat published this week as part of European Week of Sport which started this week proves that the answer does not lie in government expenditure on sport. 

In 2017, all 28 EU members spent a combined total of 51.3 billion euros on sport and recreation. In first place was Hungary, which saw 2.5% of total government expenditure go into sport and recreation. 

In last place out of all 28 EU member states was Croatia, with 0.2% of total government expenditure going into sport and recreation. 


When analysing government expenditure per inhabitant, Luxembourg were clearly the no.1 nation, spending 492 euro per person. Sweden was next (256 euro) followed by Finland (206 euro) and Holland (199 euro). In last place again was Croatia with just 13 euros per inhabitant. 


These were some of Croatia’s successes in 2018:

FIFA World Cup – Silver
Davis Cup – World Champions
Rowing – World Champions
Basketball – U16 European Champions
Windsurfing – World Champion
Ultramarathon – World Champion
Discus – 5-time European Champion first time in athletics history

Apart from the well documented success in football and tennis over the years, there have also been a host of individuals who have been world champions in their chosen sports over the years, such as the great Janica and Ivica Kostelić (skiing), the Sinković brothers (rowing), Blanka Vlašić (high jump), Sandra Perković (discus) and Sara Kolak (javelin), Nikolina Šustić (ultrarunning) Giovanni Cernogoraz, Snježana Pejčić and Josip Glasnović (shooting) to name just a few.

With a lot less funding in sport and development Croatia has achieved some remarkable results over its European neighbours. Genetics, quality coaching and development structure, passion, culture, and an enormous love for country are some of the main reasons according to those working in sports. 

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