2014 was a year of anticipation for Croatian sports fans.
It was a year that saw Croatians wait over six months to open up the World Cup against hosts Brazil in one of the most anticipated openers in football history. And although the Vatreni fell short in Sao Paulo, the consensus knows it wasn’t due to lack of effort.
It was a year that saw the future of Croatian basketball, Bojan Bogdanović, Mario Hezonja and Dario Šarić, defeat Argentina in group stage before losing to France in the Round of 16 at the FIBA World Championships.
Luka Modrić finally shined with Real Madrid after having a terrible first season in the Spanish capital, winning a record 10th Champions League title for the club. And we learned that Croatian-American Stipe Miocic could hold his own in the UFC Heavyweight division, losing a controversial decision to former champion Junior dos Santos.
But when it comes to Croatian sports in 2014, 26 year-old Marin Čilić takes top prize.
To what many thought would be a phenomenal career without any major championships in the era of Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djoković, Čilić finally grabbed his first major title this year in New York, quieting critics in the process. He did it with pristine form, only dropping three sets the entire tournament. Čilić defeated Tomas Berdych and tennis legend Roger Federer in straight sets before duplicating the effort in the Final versus Ken Nishikori. It was only the second time a Croatian man had won a tennis grand slam (Ivanišević: 2001 Wimbledon).
But where does Čilić’s title rank amongst Croatia’s greatest sporting achievements?
In no particular order, all of the following achievements should rank above 2014 Čilić:
-3rd place finish at 1998 World Cup
-Davor Šuker Golden Boot (most goals) at 1998 World Cup
-2nd place basketball finish (behind American Dream Team) at 1992 Olympics
-Goran Ivanišević wins 2001 Wimbledon crown as a Wild Card
-CroCop wins 2006 Pride World Grand Prix Open-Weight championship
At only 4.5 million people, Croatia has a spectacular sports resume in the past 20 years. Čilić now ranks amongst the elite, but what is Croatia’s #1 sports accomplishment of all time?
For me there’s no question: 1998 World Cup 3rd place.
How would you rank them CroatianSports.com nation?