Perennial overachievers Croatia has made a habit of bucking predictions and making pre-tournament odds look ridiculous but, while its World Cup record is the envy of many, it has never quite hit the same highs in the European Championship.

With a population of around 3.8 million, Croatia’s achievement in reaching the 2018 World Cup final and following that with a run to the semis four years later is one of the great underdog stories in the sport’s voluminous annals.

Yet its history in Europe’s continental contest lacks the same shine, with it having never been past the quarterfinals and falling in the last 16 at the previous two editions.

Croatia at a glance:

Previous Euro performances: Six participations, best performance quarter-finals 1996, 2008

Other: World Cup runners-up 2018, third place 1998, 2022

FIFA ranking: 10th

Nickname: Vatreni

Coach: Zlatko Dalic

Star players: Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Main clubs: Dinamo Zagreb, Hajduk Split, HNK Rijeka

How did they qualify: Finished runners-up in Group D behind Turkey

It will hope to put that right at Euro 2024 in Germany, in what will surely be the last hurrah for captain Luka Modric.

The 38-year-old, Croatia’s talisman and schemer-in-chief, has lifted every trophy going at club level with Real Madrid and would love to crown his incredible career with international honours.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic referred to Modric last year as “footballing perfection” and “superior (to others) in every possible way” but he has also proven a master at melding a team of lesser talents that is almost always greater than the sum of its parts.

Having had a journeyman career before taking on Croatia in 2017, Dalic’s World Cup achievements, while also reaching the Nations League final in 2023, make him the most successful coach in the country’s history.

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In qualifying for the Euros, Croatia finished second in Group D a point behind Turkey, earning five wins in its eight games, with two defeats.

Its top scorer was Andrej Kramaric with four goals and, while those efforts proved important, the team ethos was reflected in the fact that its 13 goals in the qualifiers were spread between seven players.

The first task for Croatia at the tournament will be escaping arguably the hardest of the six groups after it was drawn alongside Spain and Italy in Group B, with the fourth team Albania heavy favourites to exit at the first hurdle.

The group winners, runners-up and best four third-placed teams will advance to the round of 16.


Goalkeepers: Dominik Livaković (Fenerbahče), Ivica Ivušić (Pafos), Nediljko Labrović (Rijeka)

Defenders: Domagoj Vida (AEK), Josip Juranović (Union Berlin), Joško Gvardiol (Manchester City), Borna Sosa (Ajax), Josip Stanišić (Bayer Leverkusen), Josip Šutalo (Ajax), Martin Erlić (Sassuolo), Marin Pongračić (Lecce)

Midfielders: Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), Mateo Kovačić (Manchester City), Marcelo Brozović(Al-Nassr), Mario Pašalić (Atalanta), Nikola Vlašić (Torino), Lovro Majer (Wolfsburg), Luka Ivanušec (Feyenoord), Luka Sučić (RB Salzburg), Martin Baturina (Dinamo)

Forwards: Ivan Perišić (Hajduk), Andrej Kramarić (Hoffenheim), Bruno Petković (Dinamo), Marko Pjaca (Rijeka), Ante Budimir (Osasuna), Marco Pašalić (Rijeka)

Reserves: Borna Barišić (Glasgow Rangers), Duje Ćaleta-Car (Lyon), Kristijan Jakić(Augsburg), Dominik Kotarski (PAOK), Toni Fruk (Rijeka), Marin Ljubičić (LASK), Igor Matanović (Karlsruhe), Niko Kristian Sigur (Hajduk), Petar Sučić (Dinamo)


Croatia vs Spain – June 15, Saturday – 9:30 PM

Croatia vs Albania – June 19, Wednesday – 6:30 PM

Croatia vs Italy – June 25, Tuesday – 12:30 AM


All of Croatia’s matches at Euro 2024 will be telecasted on the Sony Sports Network. The matches will also be live-streamed on the SonyLIV app.

(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)