By Rashmi Goel

Croatia’s performance on the international stage has been a pleasure to watch. It was their third-place finish at World Cup 98 that captured the attention of the world. They have also reached the quarter-finals of two of the six European Championships in which they have participated. Furthermore, Dalic's team has qualified for next year's Nations League finals. Challenges have certainly arisen along the way. Despite the fact that Spain and Germany are already out of the 2022 tournament, Italy has not even reached the semifinal stage. Croatia failed to qualify for one World Cup and two Euros during their existence. They also lost in the group stages of two Euros.

Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia on 25th June 1991. As far back as 1990, an unofficial national team was playing games outside of the international governing body. After playing 15 matches as an independent nation in the 1940s prior to merging with the Yugoslav national team, they were readmitted to FIFA in 1992. Croatia has made so many achievements that they are rarely ever considered to be a minnow because of their achievements. In most cases, however, they are exactly what they seem by most measures. It is important to note that Croatia is a young team from a footballing standpoint because they have only existed as they are today since 1992. For reference, this Croatian team is younger than England's Jordan Henderson, Nick Pope, and Callum Wilson, all of whom are younger than this incarnation of Croatia. The reason that Croatia has had such a tremendous impact on global football in the past few decades can be attributed largely to the quality of the players that the country has produced. Take a look at that France 98 team.

During that year's Ballon d'Or vote, Davor Suker won both the Golden Boot and the runner-up prize. As an AC Milan icon, Zvonimir Boban spent a decade in the spotlight. During his tenure at West Ham United and Everton, Slaven Bilic terrorized strikers in the Premier League. As of today, that group of cool, talented superstars remains within the team. Luka Modric's extraordinary talents are still the hallmark of the 2022 vintage. Despite his advanced age, the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder remains a vital member of the Real Madrid squad and the national team. This season, the Premier League has had the opportunity to see Ivan Perisic's timeless talents. As a winger, the 33-year-old comes alive for his country in a more attacking role. Josko Gvardiol is one of the world's most sought-after defenders at the age of 20. Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic is a Champions League winner.

There is no doubt that this country is smaller than Lithuania and somewhat smaller than Latvia, but its influence on European and world football is unprecedented. The names of Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic, Vedran Corluka, Niko Kranjcar, and Darjo Srna have not been mentioned. Croatia is not often mentioned in pre-tournament dispatches as a team to look forward to. Yet they are always accompanied by an exciting squad of players when they participate in these competitions. There is little chance that Croatia will be able to defeat this Brazilian team. However, their chances of reaching 2018 final were slim. The chances of reaching the 1998 semi-finals were almost nonexistent. It is important to note that their nation was virtually nonexistent as recently as 1990. It has become a habit for Croatia to defy the odds, and they have done this in style with Suker, Modric, and Guardiola. There have been few nations that have reached the summit of this mountain in such a short period of time.

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