Could the new star be Croatia's? | Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 14, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:01 AM, July 14, 2018

Could the new star be Croatia's?

Can Croatia cross one final hurdle come Sunday night and become the ninth nation to win the World Cup? Standing in their way are France, whose sole ambition will be to claim that coveted piece of glory for the second time at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.

As an independent nation, Croatia might not have a rich history as far as their participation in the biggest show on Earth is concerned but since their World Cup debut in 1998, eight years after being liberated from Yugoslavia, it has been a spectacular journey for them.

Coincidentally, it was also the year that France became the seventh nation to win the World Cup, which was on their home soil, by defeating Brazil 3-0 in the final.

More interestingly, it was France who shattered Croatia's dreams by defeating their first 'golden generation' in the semifinal of that tournament 2-1, thanks to two quick blows from Les Bleus defender Lilian Thuram after Croatia's Davor Suker had scored in the 46th minute.

Even in that defeat, Croatia became only the second team after Portugal to have the best finish as debutants. They were placed third following a 2-1 win over Holland in the position deciding game, where Suker scored his sixth goal to win the Golden Boot.

If that was a big statement by an up and coming footballing nation, then the exploits of their next generation, now marshalled by Luka Modric, is no less spectacular as they have reached the finals despite a below-par qualifying campaign.

Croatia launched their campaign in Russia with a 2-0 win against Nigeria before pulling off a magnificent 3-0 win against two-time winners Argentina. They beat Iceland in the last group league game to move into the round of 16 with the maximum number of points.

And in the last three knockout games, where they had to battle it out beyond regulation time, Croatia showed tenacity and the will to fight till the end.

Croatia's round of 16 game against Denmark was a classic example of their never-say-die attitude. After conceding an early goal, they equalised and took the game to extra time, where Modric missed a penalty. However, the Real Madrid midfielder showed courage and stepped up in the shootout to convert his spot kick.

In the quarterfinal against hosts Russia, which they won in the shootout after a 2-2 draw, they faced a similar scenario. This was also the case in the semifinal against England before Mario Mandzukic hit the winner in the 109th minute.

The Juventus forward might not be as prolific as Suker was on the big stage but he has the knack of scoring goals from out of nowhere. Croatia actually have individual winners in Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic, the Inter Milan forward who has been in fine form.

Croatia's last three games might have started slowly but gradually picked up with the progression of the game, which is a hallmark of a good team.

They also showed how athletically fit they are as they had to play for 120 minutes in all three previous games.

Against England at Saint Petersburg, many thought it would be impossible for them to survive if the game went beyond regulation time. Surprisingly though, it was England who slowed down as the game progressed. In addition, when the Turkish referee blew the final whistle, Croatia were heading for another crack at the goal.

France midfielder Paul Pogba previously said that he wants to earn his own star on the shirt on Sunday. However, the world will not be surprised to a see the birth of a new star.

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