Croatia is looking to win their first World Cup, while France tries to add to their titles. France won their only World Cup in 1998. Croatia has much less tradition as they did not join FIFA until 1992. Croatia entered their first World Cup in 1998, the same year France won their lone title. The 2018 tournament is only Croatia’s fifth World Cup appearance. Prior to 2018, Croatia’s best performance came in 1998 when they finished third.
In 1998, France advanced out of a group that included Denmark, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. They defeated Paraguay in the Round of 16, then were victorious over Italy in the quarterfinals. Their semifinal matchup looks familiar to the 2018 tournament. France squared off with Croatia, who surprisingly advanced to the quarters in their first World Cup appearance. France defeated Croatia to advance to the final where they faced Brazil.
France put up a dominant performance with a 3-0 victory over Brazil to win their first and only World Cup. Zinedine Zidane scored two of the three goals. Zidane has gone on to have a successful coaching career. He recently resigned from Real Madrid after leading the club to three straight Champions League titles. The 1998 France squad was nicknamed the “Rainbow Team”, a nod to its diverse player base. Former player Robert Pires spoke with CNN about what it was like to win the tournament.
“It was important,” Pires told CNN. “The mix, (it was) cosmopolitan. The people, especially the team, the French national team. We said in France ‘black, white and brown’ — brown was for the Algerian people, because we have a large community from Africa. So that’s why this moment, for all the people in France, it was an amazing moment for unity.”
The 2018 Croatia team is the best in the country’s history, and likely the last with what many call the country’s “Golden Generation.” Croatia’s president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic believes the team has already proven a lot, regardless of the final outcome.
“I feel extremely excited, I don’t know how I will wait until Sunday,” Grabar-Kitarovic explained to NDTV. “Regardless of Sunday’s result, which I believe will be a victory, we are winners. I go for the final not only as a politician or president… but as a passionate fan of Croatian football… as someone who played football in childhood. I hope for fair play and a good atmosphere. I’m not good at that. The result is not important, only that it is a victory.”
France enters the match as a heavy favorite, but Croatia has proven capable of pulling off upsets. With a string of games going to extra time, we will see if Croatia has enough legs for one more win.
Here’s a look at France and Croatia’s World Cup history.
France’s World Cup History
Croatia’s World Cup History