Almost exactly 20 years ago Croatia met France in the semi final of the Balkans’ first ever World Cup and it looked for a moment that they would advance to the final if not for the impact of France defender Lillian Thuram.
It really is quite remarkable to see the strides that Croatian football has underwent in the last two decades. The country, which became an independent state following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s, qualified for their first-ever World Cup in 1998 in France.
Backed by a ‘Golden Generation’ of talent such as Davor Suker, Robert Prosinecki, Zvonimir Boban and others, Croatia exceeded expectations, defeating Germany 3-0 in the quarter finals to set up a semi-final encounter with hosts France.
Suker gave the Croats a lead before a brace from defender Lillian Thuram proved sufficient to advance the home nation to the final and as the two sides prepare to renew rivalries in Sunday’s World Cup Final in Moscow, some light-hearted Twitter trolling between the two nations has hit the web.
The official Croatian Football Federation account tweeted at their French counterparts, enquiring if Thuram might once again be on the pitch. The reply? France said they would persuade him to ‘sit out’ the final, so long as Croatia’s legendary (and retired) goalscorer Suker also doesn’t make any impact on the tie.