When Croatia plays Nigeria on 16 June in their 2018 FIFA World Cup opener in Russia, it will be 20 years and 2 days since Croatia made its debut at a football World Cup.
In 1998 in France Miroslav Blažević’s side sent the nation into euphoria, beating Jamaica, Japan, Romania, Germany and Holland to finish 3rd.
That generation from 1998 etched themselves into history. So where are they today?
Dražen Ladić – Age: 54
Dražen Ladić enjoyed a very impressive playing career which spanned nearly 14 years, collecting a record-holding total of 802 appearances in official matches. After hanging up his gloves in 2000, Ladić stayed in football and took up coaching roles, first as goalkeeper coach of Croatia from 2002 – 2004, followed by managing the Croatian U-21 side from 2006-2011 and becoming reserve coach at Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal.
Slaven Bilić – Age: 49
Slaven Bilić retired from the game in 2001, after going back to the club where it all started for him – Hajduk Split – in his hometown, and immediately turned to coaching, his first job being a five-month stint at Hajduk Split. He then went on to manage the Croatia under-21 team, before taking over the senior national side from Zlatko Kranjčar in August 2006.
Bilić stepped down after the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament and then signed a contract with the Russian club FC Lokomotiv Moscow.After leaving Moscow in 2013, Bilić went to Turkey to manage Beşiktaş and then on to West Ham in the English Premiership. He was sacked by West Ham earlier this year.
Igor Štimac – Age: 50
Just like Slaven Bilić, Igor Štimac also returned to his home club Hajduk Split before retiring. After working on Croatian Television as a football commentator, Štimac turned to coaching and was the second member of the class of ’98 to manage the national side after Bilić.
Štimac was sacked in 2013 ahead of Croatia’s World Cup playoff match against Iceland. Štimac, who owns an award-winning olive oil company with his brother, is currently the head coach of Al-Shahania in Qatar Stars League.
Mario Stanić – Age: 45
Mario Stanić was forced to retire at the age of 32 after developing a serious knee injury during the 2003-04 league season. Stanić started a players agency with former teammates Goran Vlaović and Boris Živković.
He lives in Zagreb, has real estate interests there and writes a column for a local portal.
Zvonimir Soldo – Age: 50
Zvonimir Soldo finished his playing career at German Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart in 2006, and then like a number of the class of ’98 went into coaching. In 2008 Soldo managed Dinamo Zagreb, before managing FC Koln for one season in 2009-10. Soldo joined the coaching staff at Li Xiaopeng in China in 2017 but was released last month.
Aljoša Asanović – Age: 52
After France ’98 Aljoša Asanović had stints at Panathinaikos, Austria Wein, Sydney United, and Hajduk Split. Asanović made the switch to coaching after retiring and was Slaven Bilić’s right-hand man when the pair took charge of the Croatian U-21 side.
Asanović then joined Bilić with the Croatian national team before joining him again in Moscow at Lokomotiva. Asanović now lives in Melbourne, Australia and is coaching at the Melbourne Knights.
Zvonimir Boban – Age: 49
Croatia’s captain in France, Zvonimir Boban enjoyed an illustrious career in Italy with AC Milan before retiring from playing in 2002. Boban then swapped his boots for the books and enrolled in studies, gaining a history degree from the University of Zagreb.
In 2016 Boban was appointed as Deputy Secretary-General at FIFA. His role was described as “focussing on developing the game and the organisation of competitions. He has several business interests also in Zagreb, including restaurants and an ice cream parlour.
Robert Jarni – Age: 49
Robert Jarni opened the scoring in what was Croatia’s most memorable victory in France – the 3-0 quarter-final win against Germany. The left-back signed for Real Madrid immediately following that World Cup, before representing Croatia in Futsal.
Jarni hung up his boots in 2002 and got into coaching. Jarni coached Hajduk Split and Istra 1961 before recently taking up a post at FK Sarajevo. After coaching stints at Hungarian sides Pécsi MFC and Puskás Akadémia FC in 2014 and 2016, Jarni is now the current coach of the Croatia U-19 team.
Robert Prosinečki – Age: 49
Robert Prosinečki was another who after finishing his career in Zagreb in 2004 went back to school to get his coaching badges. He assisted Slaven Bilić when he was in charge of the Croatian national team from 2006-2010 before taking up a managerial role of his own with Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade and then in Turkey with Kayserispor.
He was appointed as manager of Azerbaijan national football team in December 2014 and was recently announced that his contract would not be extended. He is currently linked to a number of coaching jobs.
Davor Šuker – Age: 49
Šuker, who won the Golden Boot award in France scoring 6 goals, finished his playing career with 1860 Munich in 2003. He then went onto open the Davor Šuker Soccer Academy around Croatia before turning to administration.
Šuker lives now in Zagreb and is the current President of the Croatian Football Federation.
Dario Šimić – Age: 42
Dario Šimić was the youngest member of the class of ’98 and only retired from the game in 2010 after returning to his home club Dinamo Zagreb after stints at Milan and Monaco. Šimić got into business after football, heading Aquaviva, a family owned bottled water and coffee business. Šimić also owns Zagreb’s largest cafe club.
Šimić lives in Zagreb with his wife and 4 kids and recently launched a campaign to run for being a candidate for the presidency of the Croatian Football Federation which was not successful.