Preview: Euphoria of 1998 France World Cup grips Croatia

Amol Gokhale
Saturday, 30 June 2018

Croatian press pin hopes on their national side to match the feat of 1998 World Cup

The clock was approaching midnight but the press conference room of Nizhny Novgorod Stadium was still abuzz after Croatia captain and man-of-the-match of that night, Luka Modric, walked in.

The first question he was asked by a Croatian reporter went something like this, "Is this year Croatia will repeat the feat of 1998 France?" Twenty years ago Croatia beat Netherlands 2-1 to finish third in 1998 World Cup.

Even in that moment, Modric remained humble and urged his team to stay humble and keep their feet firmly on the ground. It was just a few minutes after his side had thumped Argentina 3-0, with Modric himself putting his name on the scoresheet.

Along with Uruguay and Belgium, Croatia are the only side to have won all three of their group games - 2-0 vs Nigeria; 3-0 vs Argentina; and 2-1 vs Iceland.

The last one is of more significance as coach Zlatko Dalic was able to rest 9 of his players who started against Argentina and the goal they conceded was a penalty.

There is a real sense of belief around this Croatia side built around two midfielders - Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, once again the pairing of Real Madrid and Barcelona men. The duo, on the wrong side of 30's, are ably supported by the young brigade of Ante Rebic, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic who provide additional ammunition to striker Mario Mandzukic and dynamic winger Ivan Perisic.

If this Croatian side are one of the high flying sides of the tournament, Denmark were jeered by their own supporters in their last group game against France as they played out a dour draw to qualify, without offering much on the field.

The 26-year-old Christian Eriksen is the most creative player they have in the outfield but he will have a tough task running the show on Sunday night as there will be two midfield generals marshalling the troop for Croatia.

Although Dane coach Age Hareide promised that his side won't deploy same tactics as they did against France, he emphasised that they won't let in five goals playing tiki-taka either.

He knows, there's nothing much his side can offer going forward and they rely on Eriksen to provide that moment of magic.

It will be a stern test for Denmark as Croatia, engulfed in the euphoria of 1998, are high flying and they will take some stopping, especially on the same turf where they demolished Argentina.

The storm predicted in Moscow might just appear in Nizhny Novgorod in form of Croatia, to sweep Denmark off their feet.

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