Another Croatian Anniversary to Remember - the Birth of Vatreni

By 24 December 2015

25 years ago, now legendary Vatreni played their first game together

Even though the first official international game of the Croatian football team was on October 17, 1990 when we played a friendly against USA to commemorate the return of the statue of Ban Jelačić on the main city square in Zagreb, on December 22, 2015 we celebrated the 25th anniversary of a truly legendary game. It was the game played in Rijeka against Romania and it was the very first time the team which will go on to take 3rd place in the 1998 World Cup played together. In other words, that game was the birth of "Vatreni" as we like to call our national football team here in Croatia.

It was the debut performance by Davor Šuker, Zvonimir Boban, Nikola Jurčević, Igor Štimac and Robert Jarni, the backbone of the team which soon became known all over the world. Thinking back about his first game for the national team Nikola Jurčević said: "You never forget your first game. I was so anxious to play. I didn't play in the first game against USA just like most of Vatreni. We were so excited, we had no idea what the jersey were going to look like, who will show up..We knew each other well because we played against each other and only when we entered the changing rooms, and Boban, Šuker and Štimac were there, we realised this was the beginning of something huge" he commented for 24 sata.

"This game was the end of one generation and the beginning of a new one, one that would always be remembered. It was played during the times when our country was being created. I remember waiting for the jerseys to arrive and when they did, we were thrilled. They were checkered throughout and they represented our country so well" Jurčević added.

Kantrida stadium was packed, and when the national anthem started, the stadium erupted. It was a moment we will all remember. The pride and an exposion of emotions made it a night to remember.

"When "Lijepa naša" (Croatian national anthem) started, many of us teared up. It was definitely a very special game" Jurčević stated.

Davor Šuker, the man who scored most goals in the history of Croatia was only 22 then and he was still playing for Dinamo. It was his national debut too, and as he will also remember that game for the rest of his life:" Dražan Jerković was our team manager, and I remember the emotions when I walked onto the pitch. Atmosphere was amazing, we were all breathing as one. Cico Kranjčar scored the first goal and Bogdan scored the second one. It was an indescribable feeling to be able to put on that checkered dress, and we all remember what the situation was like back then. It was a very significant win and the start of all the good things this team would go on to achieve in the future. It was the beginning of Vatreni" Šuker said.

And now, let's remember the entire lineup of the Croatian team:

Ladić (replaced by Gabrić in the second half), Peršon, Jarni, Čelić (replaced by Štimac in the second half), Kasalo, Bogdan, Cvjetković (replaced later by Jurčević), Mladenović, Kranjčar (captain, reaced later by Rubčić), Boban and Šuker.

Head coach: Dražan Jerković