The 2018 FIFA World Cup final will see Croatia take on France at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. This is the first instance where the Croatian team has made its way to the finals. Led by Luka Modric, the Chequered flags got off to a winning start in the competition but then had to take the long and hard route to the summit clash against France. Let’s take a look at Croatia’s route to the showpiece event.
Group Stage (Group D)
Croatia 2-0 Nigeria | Kaliningrad, June 16
Placed in the what was deemed as the ‘group of death’ Croatia began their journey by picking up three points in the opening encounter. A first-half own goal from Oghenekaro Etebo and a spot kick from captain Luka Modric sealed the victory.
Argentina 0-3 Croatia | Nizhny Novgorod, June 21
In a ruthless display of complete dominance, Croatia thumped Albiceleste 3-0 to confirm their participation in the next round. Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic scored a goal each as Croatia secured their place in the last 16.
Iceland 1-2 Croatia | Rostov-on-Don, June 26
In yet another solid performance Croatia beat Iceland by a 2-1 margin to pick up nine points from three group games. Milan Badelj’s 53rd-minute opening goal was nullified by a Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty before Ivan Perisic struck in the 90th minute to send Iceland back home without a win.
Round of 16
Croatia 1-1 Denmark (Croatia won 3-2 on penalties) | Nizhny Novgorod, July 1
In 120 minutes of game time, both the teams were locked at 1-1 before spot kicks decided the fate of the enticing contest. An early goal by Mathias Jorgensen put the Danes in front but Mario Mandzukic equalised two minutes later. Modric missed a penalty in extra-time as the match went into a penalty shootout. While both the keepers put up a gritty display, Danijel Subasic saved Lasse Schone’s attempt to send his side through to the quarter-finals for the first time in 20 years.
Russia 2-2 Croatia (Croatia won 4-3 on penalties) | Sochi, July 7
A quarter-final clash against an upbeat home team – Russia was going to be anything but easy. In a tense contest both the teams were locked at 1-1 in 90 minutes. In extra time Domagoj Vida put Croatia in front before a dramatic late Mario Fernandes header saw Russia level at 2-2. However, Fernandes downfall from hero to zero occurred in a matter of minutes as he missed a crucial penalty with Croatia progressing 4-3 on penalties.
Croatia 2-1 England (after extra-time) | Moscow, July 11
While England were favourites to win this encounter, Croatia showed the world their immense willpower and grit to come from behind. Kieran Trippier’s fifth-minute free-kick put England in front after which Perisic equalized in the second half. But it was ‘Super Mario’ Mandzukic who turned out to be the hero as he turned in Rakitic’s header in extra-time to set up the final against France.