After acceding to FIFA in 1992, Croatia entered qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ in France and booked their ticket at the first attempt. Progress was smooth for a while after that as the Croats won their qualifying groups for both Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, but there was a major setback when they missed out on the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, finishing only third in their group behind England and Ukraine.
FIFA World Cup history
The Croats arrived for their maiden shot at the FIFA World Cup in 1998 as virtual unknowns, but were to prove one of the surprises of the tournament. They finished second in their group behind Argentina after losing 1-0 to the South Americans, but beating Jamaica 3-1 and Japan 1-0. A 1-0 win over Romania saw them through to the last eight and a meeting with Germany, where they stunningly won 3-0 to send the three-time world champions packing. Hosts and eventual winners France proved too strong in a 2-1 semi-final defeat, but the new boys crowned a dream debut by beating the Netherlands 2-1 in the third place play-off.
The next two tournaments proved thoroughly disappointing by comparison, as Croatia failed to survive the group stage at both Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006.
The current crop
Despite their absence from the 2010 finals, Croatia are a match for anyone on their day. Their goal is to recapture the glory days of the late 90's golden generation, of which he himself was a member. With many players playing regularly in the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga, the prospect of a place at Brazil 2014 is realistic.
The key players
Experienced captain Darijo Srna is a born leader, and playmakers Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar can always be relied upon for moments of inspiration. Igor Stimac presides over a wealth of international-class attacking talent including Eduardo, Ivica Olic, Nikita Jelavic, Mladen Petric and Mario Mandzukic.
Coach: Igor Stimac
Best performance in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup France 1998 (Third place)
Former stars: Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban, Robert Prosinecki