You know what guys? We have the most exciting national team of the last 5 years. Hands down! Croatia may not have any silverware in their cabinet yet, but the CARDIAC CROATIANS once again stayed true to their name Wednesday night in Rotterdam.
1st Half: Crap from Croatia
2nd Half: Excellent from Croatia
Last minute of the match: Disaster from Croatia
Extra Time: ALL CROATIA!
So why do I say Croatia is the most exciting team of the past 5 years? Well, the proof is in the pudding. Nearly every single knockout round match since the opening of the 2018 World Cup has gone into extra time or beyond.
2018 World Cup: 3/4 KO matches went to extra time. 2 went to penalties. Croatia won all 3.
EURO 2020: 1/1 KO match went to extra time. Croatia eventually lost to Spain in ET but that wasn’t before Croatia scored twice in the final 5 minutes of the match to tie the game up and force ET.
2022 World Cup: 2/4 KO matches went to extra time and penalties. Croatia won both penalty shootouts against Japan and Brazil. As a bonus, you can add the group finale against Belgium (0-0) in the mix as that game had every Croatian on planet Earth on the edge of their seat. Hvala Lukaku.
2023 Nations League: Croatia blow a 96th minute lead to force extra time where they would eventually win 4-2 in the semifinal.
The proof is in the pudding. But check out this interesting Croatian “Stat of the Night!” Since the beginning of the 2018 World Cup, the maximum amount of Knockout round matches between the World Cup (4 games x 2 years), EURO (4 games x 1 year), and Nations League (2 games x 3 years) is 18. Croatia (with Sunday’s UNL Final against Italy or Spain) will have played in 11 of them. How incredible is that? (I will look to see if any other European or South American team has topped that number since 2018 later in the week. France or Argentina may be close.)
That means since 2018, Croatia has:
-played in 10 Knockout Round matches (+1 on Sunday)
-7 of those have gone to Extra Time
The Vatreni have only lost 3/10 KO round games in that span: 2018 World Cup Final vs. France, EURO 2020 R16 vs. Spain, 2022 World Cup semifinal vs. Argentina.
Of the 7 matches that have gone into extra time, they have only lost one game: Spain in 2020.
Croatia trailed in every single match (7) that led to extra time but only lost one. How strong does a team need to be mentally across a 5-year span to pull those numbers off? Absolutely unreal.
- 11/18 Knockout Round appearances (61%)
- 6-1 in matches that go to extra time
- 4/4 in penalty shootouts
So why am I telling you this? Because our beloved Vatreni did it again Wednesday night in Rotterdam. However, instead of an epic comeback, it was a tragic letdown ‘at the death’ against the Dutch. But Modrić and his boys dug deep once again to win an extra time thriller to put Croatia in their second Final in 5 years.
- Modrić was absolute class!
- Livaković finally looked good coming off his line and grabbing the ball out of the air
- Petković is officially Mr. Big Game in extra time
- The entire Croatia team came to play in extra time after conceding the equalizer in the 96th minute
- Ivanušec with a surprisingly great game out of nowhere
- The “Put Together At The Last Second” defense of Vida, Šutalo, Perišić, Juranović showed they had never played together on the first Dutch goal
- Kovačić was invisible this match
- Perišić still has no one to cross the ball to in the box
- The 96th minute Dutch equalizer was nasty for Croatia. You cannot let the ball ping pong around the box like like. Kick it into the 17th row if you have to!
- How many short corners does Dalić want to play? I counted 3 unnecessary short corners in this match that did absolutely nothing. Put the ball in the box and see what happens. I understand we don’t have a tall striker than can climb the ladder for a ball, but the short corner has done nothing For Croatia, EVER.
UEFA Nations League Final takes place between Croatia and the winner of Spain/Italy Sunday at 2:45PM (ET). Who are we rooting for in the other seminal?