The National Sport of Croatia is Soccer.
Soccer in Croatia is passionately celebrated, fostering unity and national pride through its thrilling matches and vibrant fan culture.
To learn more about sports culture in Croatia, read our article about the most popular sports in Croatia.
Table of Contents
#1 History of Soccer
- Late 19th century: Soccer was first introduced to Croatia by English expatriates working in the country.
- 1912: The founding of Croatian Sports Federation (Hrvatski športski savez) paved the way for soccer’s development in Croatia.
- 1940: The Croatian national team debuts in an official international match against Switzerland.
- 1941-1944: The Independent State of Croatia maintained a national soccer team during World War II.
- 1990: Following Croatia’s independence from Yugoslavia, the Croatian Football Federation (Hrvatski nogometni savez) was established, and the national team began competing separately.
- 1998: Croatia achieves third place in the FIFA World Cup, an astonishing accomplishment for a young, independent nation.
- 2018: Croatia reaches the FIFA World Cup final in Russia, ultimately finishing as runners-up.
#2 Culture and Traditions
Soccer holds a significant place in Croatia’s cultural identity. The sport has historically served as a unifying force for the Croatian people, rallying them together in support of their national team. National soccer matches and club games evoke enormous fervor, with fans across the nation proudly donning the red and white checkered-patterns of their national flag.
Throughout Croatia, local clubs are celebrated with devotion and enthusiasm. Fans often form tightly-knit groups, attending matches together and creating a vibrant atmosphere with songs, chants, and banners. Many supporters clubs organize their charitable efforts, contributing positively to their communities through various initiatives.
Major soccer events, such as the World Cup or UEFA European Championship, are celebrated with public viewings. As fans gather in bars, cafes, and public squares with large screens, the atmosphere is electrifying, typifying the camaraderie and passion engendered by soccer in Croatia.
#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment
📕 Rules & Gameplay
- Match Duration: A standard match consists of two halves, each lasting 45 minutes, with a 15-minute break in between.
- Objective: Each team attempts to score by getting the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
- Players: Each team has 11 players, including one goalkeeper.
- Offside: A player is offside if they are nearer to the opponent’s goal than both the ball and the second last opponent when the ball is played to them.
- Fouls: Direct and indirect free-kicks and penalty kicks are awarded for infringements of the rules.
⚙️ Equipment & Gear
- Ball: Round and made of leather or another suitable material.
- Goalposts: Located at each end of the field, they are 7.32 meters wide and 2.44 meters tall.
- Kits: Teams wear distinguishing kits, with goalkeepers wearing different colors to stand out.
- Shin Guards: Protection for players from potential tackles or hits.
- Boots: Specialized shoes designed for the sport’s requirements.
#4 Modern Development of Soccer
As soccer has grown, Croatian clubs and players have made their mark on the international stage. Numerous Croatian players have found successful careers in top-level European leagues, contributing to the sport’s continued domestic popularity. Soccer events, like the UEFA Champions League, captivate Croatian fans, fostering excitement and inspiration for aspiring athletes.
Technological advancements such as VAR (Video Assistant Referee) and goal-line technology have transformed the sport in recent years, impacting the way matches are officiated. These changes have contributed to the sport’s overall development and enhanced the accuracy and fairness of gameplay.
In recent decades, soccer in Croatia has been shaped by domestic and international success, with the national team’s inspiring performance in the 2018 World Cup serving as a prime example. This success has prompted renewed enthusiasm for the sport, propelling Croatia’s soccer culture towards continued growth and prosperity.
#5 Soccer and the Olympics
Soccer has been a mainstay of the Olympic Games, with the men’s competition first taking place in 1900 and the women’s in 1996. Croatia’s national team has participated in the Olympic Games soccer competition since gaining independence, making their debut in the 1992 Summer Olympics. Over the years, Olympic soccer has played a significant role in developing the sport and fostering global recognition, especially for up-and-coming countries like Croatia.
The Olympics provide an invaluable platform for soccer, raising the sport’s international profile and introducing new talent to the world stage. Competing in the Olympics heightens global exposure for participating teams and presents a unique opportunity for athletes to represent their country, directly contributing to soccer’s status as the world’s most popular sport.
#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements
- Davor Šuker: Considered one of Croatia’s greatest soccer players, Šuker won the Golden Boot at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and played an instrumental role in helping Croatia achieve third place in the tournament.
- Luka Modrić: As the heartbeat of the Croatian national team and a world-class midfielder, Modrić was awarded the Golden Ball at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where Croatia became runners-up.
- Ivan Rakitić: A key player for both the Croatian national team and top European clubs, Rakitić has been a mainstay in Croatian soccer for over a decade, contributing to their success in numerous international competitions.
- Slaven Bilić: Renowned as both a player and a coach, Bilić captained the Croatian national team during his playing career and later managed the team to the UEFA European Championship quarterfinals in 2008.
#7 Where to watch Soccer
- Television and streaming services: HRT (Croatian Radiotelevision) provides coverage of Croatian and international soccer events, while Arena Sport channels and ESPN+ offer live broadcasts of various European league matches and competitions.
- Notable stadiums and venues: Catch exhilarating live matches at iconic Croatian stadiums such as Maksimir Stadium (Zagreb), Poljud Stadium (Split), and Rujevica Stadium (Rijeka).