- In-form Croatia survive dramatic penalty shoot-out against Denmark
- Croatia just one win from equalling their famous France 1998 side
- Match-winner Ivan Rakitic says it is time for the current side to write a new chapter
By Vjekoslav Paun with Croatia
Croatia were superb the last time they played in Nizhny Novgorod. They defeated Argentina 3-0 and, in the process, laid down a real marker at Russia 2018. Sunday’s match against Denmark, however, was completely different. Croatia managed to secure a quarter-final ticket, but only after significant drama.
The Croats were one of just three teams, along with Belgium and Uruguay, to win all three of their group games. And maybe much more was expected of Croatia's all-star midfielders, but Vatreni were unable to dominate against well-organised opposition.
Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic was his team's hero, saving penalties from Christian Eriksen, Lasse Schone and Nicolai Jorgensen. After 120 gruelling minutes, they triumphed 3-2 on penalties thanks to Ivan Rakitic’s conversion.
"As I was preparing for this last penalty, I was thinking only about my wife and my daughters,” Rakitic said. “She told me I would be the one who would decide it in the end. This was one of the most emotional games in my career so far.”
Rakitic and his team-mates have the opportunity to equal, or even better, Croatia’s storied 1998 side that finished in third place.
"The France 1998 generation were our idols,” said Rakitic. “They showed us the way we should go, but now we have to forget them. This must not be pressure, we have to enjoy this World Cup. I would like to see kids talk about us in 20 years.”
Star midfielder Luka Modric missed a penalty in the final minutes of extra time as the match ended 1-1, but Rakitic was quick to hail his team-mate’s qualities.
"If Robert Prosinecki says that Luka Modric is the best player in the history of Croatia, then it is so,” Rakitic said. “There is no one in Croatia who is better understood in football than he is.
“But Luka Modric is not only great in the field, he is a great person as well. It's a pleasure to play against him in Spain, and it's even better when we're in the same team. He is our leader."