The fourth of July might be special in the USA, but it also is an important date in Croatian football history.
On this day 20 years ago on 4 July 1998 in Lyon, France, Croatia recorded one of the most famous victories in its history when it inflicted four-time FIFA World Cup winners Germany their worst defeat in the global tournament for 50 years.
Croatia’s comprehensive 3-0 win over Germany that night in Lyon in front of 40,000 fans gathered at Stade Gerland sent Ćiro Blažević’s side into the semi-final of its debut FIFA World Cup.
The victory was not only revenge for the narrow loss to the Germans two years prior at EURO 1996, but it also signaled to the world that Croatia, despite its size, was a true football force.
The Vatreni set up the quarter-final clash with Germany with a win over Romania 1-0 in the Round of 16 after finishing second in group play behind Argentina.
The turning point in the match came just before halftime at 0-0 when Christian Worns was dismissed for a foul on Davor Šuker. Moments later Croatia capitalised when Robert Jarni fired home from outside the box.
Goran Vlaović doubled the lead before Šuker, who eventually became Golden Boot at the tournament, put the nail in the coffin as Germany were sent home and on the receiving end of their heaviest defeat since a 6-3 loss to France in 1958.
Celebrations went on late into the night in Lyon, Croatia and in Croatian communities around the world.
“Croatia send Germany packing. The Germans played an out-dated brand of football and were buried,” declared Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport at the time.
“This is a historic moment in Croatian football history,” coach Blažević said after the match, whilst captain Zvonimir Boban commented.
“That was the match of our lives and none of us will ever forget it.”
20 years later and Croatia is in the quarterfinal again. This time they will need to knock out hosts Russia on Saturday to reach their second World Cup semi-final final.