Monday, 19 December 2022

Croatia, the Tiny Country Which Consistently Delivers

December 19, 2022 - The heroes are home, with some 80,000 cheering the returning Vatreni to Zagreb with their third World Cup medal in just 6 tournaments.

There can be few places better during the World Cup than Croatia. The tiny country which dared to dream is transformed into a sea of red and white squares, as seemingly every member of the population possesses their own version of the national football shirt. A tiny nation of just 4 million people, and yet one which consistently delivers on the international stage at the big tournaments when it matters. Third place in 1998, the first World Cup of a newly-independent nation. Runners-up last time in Moscow, and one more bronze this time round, as Croatia overcame Morocco 2-1 in the third-place playoff, having succumbed to Argentina 3-0 in the semi-final. 

You will find plenty of people telling you how the referee was against Croatia against Argentina, much less of them who will reflect on Croatia's biggest friend in the tournament, a Belgian striker called Lukaku in the group stages. Did that unfair penalty change the game? Perhaps. Had Lukaka scored one of the many open goals from one metre out, there would not have been a discussion about Argentina. At the end of the day, what matters are results.


(Photo: Slobodan Kadic)

And when it comes to results, few can compare to the success of the tiny country which dared to dream. Three medals in 6 World Cups in 24 years is a phenomenal achievement for any country, even more so for one so small, with a shrinking population of less than 3.9 million. What is additionally impressive, to me at least, is just how much of this is as a result of home-grown talent, which has been nurtured back in the Homeland. Livakovic was unquestionably the goalkeeper of the tournament, whatever the official decision, and in Gvadiol, Croatia and one of Europe's biggest clubs, have one of the centre-backs of the world for many years to come. 

And there is plenty of home-grown talent that went on to shine on the international stage elsewhere, none more so than talisman captain Luka Modric, who started his journey at Dinamo Zagreb. I read somewhere that in the days of former Yugoslavia, players were not allowed to play abroad until they were 28. This no doubt strengthened the Yugoslav league at the time. Such a rule does not apply in Croatia, and the Croatian National League is fairly weak as a result, but the sheer number of talented stars that emerge from such a tiny country is breathtaking indeed. 

And many of those stars were on show on Zagreb's main square of Ban Jelacic lat night, as the Vatreni returned home to a waiting crowd of 80,000 fans who had braved the December cold weather to welcome back their heroes. The timing was somewhat ironic, coming around the same time as the actual World Cup Final back in Qatar. But for many in Zagreb, the true champions of the tournament were the Croatian team on the main square. It was quite a party, not quite as crazy as the 550,000 who turned up in the summer of 2018 to welcome back the sliver-medal winning team from Moscow, but understandable given the time of year. Croats do celebration so well. 

Congratulations to Croatia and all my friends here on another great success. It has once more been very impressive to watch. 

Now, if only we could channel this passion, positivity, and success into changing things in this country... 


What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.



Monday, 19 December 2022

How Much Will Croatian Clubs Earn From Croatia's World Cup Performance?

December the 19th, 2022 - We've seen how much FIFA will give to HNS and how much each player on the Croatian national team will take home from the government for their time spent representing the country in Qatar this year, but what about the Croatian clubs themselves?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian national team performed incredibly under the guidance of the much loved Zlatko Dalic, remaining in the game at the World Cup for the second time in a row until the very end (the last time being back in 2018), which greatly benefits Croatian clubs whose players also play for the Croatian national team.

Dinamo Zagreb, which sent five of its players to Qatar - Dominik Livakovic, Josip Sutalo, Mislav Orsic, Bruno Petkovic and Sadegh Moharrami, will earn the most of all of the Croatian clubs (HNL). Croatian clubs will all receive 10,000 dollars for each player for each day spent at the World Cup in Qatar. In translation, Dinamo Zagreb will earn 50,000 dollars per day from this alone for its players having been on the pitch over in Qatar.

This amount is paid out by FIFA for as long as the selected national team remains in the tournament, and the Croatian clubs themselves are compensated for the fact that the players had to undergo short preparations before the tournament.

For more, make sure to check out out dedicated news section.

Tuesday, 13 December 2022

Zagreb Advent on Hold, Jelacic Square to Host Croatia Argentina Watch Party

December 13, 2022 - Croatia is in the semi-final of the World Cup. The Croatia Argentina match is scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight and all of Croatia is preparing, including Zagreb's main square.

As Index writes, the Christmas decorations are being hurriedly removed from Ban Jelačić square in Zagreb. The reason for that is the semi-final match of the World Cup in which Croatia is playing Argentina. The match should be streamed at Zagreb's main square tonight. At the beginning of next week, another event is expected to be organised at the same place - the welcome home reception for the Croatian national football team.

When Croatia came in second in the 2018 World Cup, a massive spontaneous party was thrown at the Ban Jelačić square, with more than half a million participants. The celebrations were not limited to Zagreb, with many smaller parties arranged all over Croatia as well. This year, too, most cities in Croatia are organising watch parties at their main squares for the Croatia Argentina semi-final match.

As for Zagreb, Index wrote yesterday that the City of Zagreb started intensively arranging to host a watch party of today's match with Argentina on the big screen at Ban Josip Jelačić Square.
So far, the matches would be streamed at the nearby European Square, but it is expected that this year's semi-final match will attract many more people to the streets of Croatia's capital.

It is also expected that a mass reception party like the one after winning silver at the 2018 World Championship could be repeated, with the difference that this one should take place a few days before Christmas as well, giving it a special festive atmosphere.

The said reception of the national football team will either happen on Monday if Croatia goes through to the final, or on Sunday if Croatia ends up playing the third place match.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Sport section.

Tuesday, 13 December 2022

Konzum - Croatian Chain Shortens Working Hours for Big Match

December the 13th, 2022 - The Croatian chain Konzum has put having a sporting spirit before an extra hour of doing business by shortening their working hours today. They have warned people to come and buy what they need before time.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, given that the remarkable Croatian national football team has entered the semi-finals of the World Cup in Qatar and that fan euphoria is at its peak at this moment in time, the large Croatian chain Konzum has decided that today (Tuesday, December the 13th), their stores will remain open only until 20:00.

There are several exceptions to this, with some stores located within larger shopping centres remaining open and in operatation according to their regular working hours (until 21:00)

Customers are as such invited to come and make their purchases on time, as even the people who aren't remotely interested in football and hoping to do their shopping during the match will need to come earlier in most cases.

For more, check out our news section.

Tuesday, 13 December 2022

Croatia Expects: A Tiny Country, From Dream to Belief

December 13, 2022 - The atmosphere all over Croatia is electric as the Vatreni attempt to reach their second World Cup Final in a row, but there is a small difference from 2018 - dreaming has been replaced by belief. 

It is an incredible time to be in Croatia, and I doubt there is a country around the globe that has more passion than Croatia when it comes to football. As I posted in a recent video (below), in life and in death, Croats are the world champions of celebration. 

But this year's run to the World Cup Final seems a little different, to me at least, as the hope of the underdog of 2018 has been replaced with something else - belief. 

When I wrote the text for the Croatian National Tourist Board to accompany the promotional video featuring the World Cup stars last time, I called it Take a Tour of Champions in the Tiny Country Which Dared to Dream.

And what a dream it was! The young, tiny country of 4 million with the most passionate fans at Russia 2018 defied the odds again and again, eventually reaching the final itself, before being finally beaten 4-2 by France. 

An incredible 550,000 fans waited hours to line the streets of Zagreb to welcome their heroes home, and Croatia won the hearts of millions all over the globe for their efforts both on and off the pitch. 

Fast forward to 2022 and, although the Croatian team was arguably stronger than last time around, even though they only just qualified, the main hype surrounded the last hurrahs of Messi and Ronaldo, with Brazil the strong favourites. 

Things started inauspicously with a goalless draw with Morocco (not the terrible result it perhaps appeared at the time, given that Morocco beat both Spain and Portugal to reach the other semi-final with France). A thrashing of Canada, inspired perhaps by the Canadian coach's promise to 'F' with Croatia, was followed by another goalless draw with Belgium, which should have been a defeat - at least if Lukaku had known where the goal was.

And then the steel emerged. First Japan, and then favourites Brazil, were cast aside, both on penalties. A new hero, Dominik Livakovic, emerged and is being touted as the new Minister of Defence after his goalkeeping heroics, including an astonishing 4 penalty shoot-out saves. Livakovic is not the only one to attract the interest of the big clubs, with 20-year-old Josko Gvardiol one of the players of the tournament.

And how can one mention Croatia without their talisman Luka Modric, also playing his last World Cup? The spark that makes Croatia tick, Modric has been an inspiration for club and country for as long as we can remember, and he will be desperate to finish with a winning medal. Perhaps all the more so, as Croatian media report, that the final will take place on December 18, 31 years to the day since a 6-year-old Luka lost his beloved grandfather, with whom he used to herd goats, as he was murdered by Serbs in the Homeland War. 

'All' that stands in the way of Modric and co lifting the trophy is Messi's Argentina - a man on borrowed time and a mission of his own - and a potential repeat of the 2018 final, unless Morocco can pull off one more shock to become the first African team to reach the final.

Four years ago, that might have been a daunting task for the tiny country which dared to dream, but the 2022 Croatia team - and the country in general - are so full of belief, it would almost be a shock if Croatia did not go on and win. This Croatian team has shown guts, passion, precision and a never-say-die attitude. Someone told me that Croatia has only been ahead in 8% of the matches so far. 

And yet, here there are, on the cusp of history. It is not how much you are ahead during the match, but at the final whistle. 

Good luck to all my Croatian friends, it is sure to be one hell of a night. 


What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.



Sunday, 11 December 2022

Daniele Orsato of Italy Assigned to Croatia - Argentina Semifinal

December 11, 2022 - Several international media report the unofficial news that Daniele Orsato of Italy has been appointed as a referee for Tuesday's semifinal game of the 2022 World Cup between Croatia and Argentina.

Football Italia and Mundo Deportivo both reported the news tonight, supposedly received from different sources. Others, including Croatian media, have also decided to publish the news before any kind of official FIFA confirmation. The VAR referee, according to the same news sources, is supposed to be another Italian, Massimiliano Irrati.

Although it's somewhat unexpected that an Italian referee has been given the responsibility for a match between a European and a South-American nation, his performance in his career and specifically at this World Cup makes him a strong choice. The 47-year-old has already refereed an Argentina match this November, when Argentina beat Mexico 2-0 in their Group C match.

The Croatian football fans know him very well from several previous occasions when he was in charge of their matches. The most recent one happened in 2020, in the European Championships, when Croatia played England at Wembley, and lost 1-0. There were many critiques of his handling of that match, including many Croatian fans who claimed that the only England goal was scored after an obvious foul, which he didn't acknowledge. Before that, we saw him referee Croatia versus Hungary in Split in 2019, and versus Czechia in Pula in 2011 - and Croatia won both of those games.

We wish Daniele Orsato and his colleagues good luck and sharp eyesight in this game, after so many criticisms aimed at the referees at this competition!

Saturday, 10 December 2022

Kate Beckinsale Celebrates Croatia's World Cup Victory in Zagreb

December 10, 2022 - Kate Beckinsale is still in Zagreb, filming her latest movie Canary Black, and just like everyone else in Zagreb, she watched the Croatia - Brasil game on Friday afternoon.

And of course, the atmosphere of the fans celebrating yet another one of Croatian national team's crazy victories infected her as well, as she has shown on her Instagram profile. She was watching the game in a bar in the city centre, dressed in a national team jersey with Modrić's number and last name, with a friend and surrounded by fans, and shared some of the atmosphere from the bar and the streets of Zagreb.

She also sent a message to all the Croatian fans on one of her Instagram stories: "I'm English and obviously support England but we're shooting in Croatia with amazing Croatian crew so we support each other and it's fucking lovely. Congratulations Croatia, your Kate Beckinsalović" (adding the "ić", very frequently found in Croatian last names, to her own).

We are sure the "amazing crew", as she calls them, will be there to support the English national team tonight with Kate, in their game against France.


Wednesday, 23 November 2022

New York Times Writes About Dedicated Croatian Women in Football

November the 23rd, 2022 - The New York Times has written about two Croatian women heavily involved in a sport dominated by men as the 2022 World Cup gets underway in Qatar.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, while the fans are eagerly awaiting the first game of the Croatian national team at this year's World Cup in Qatar against Morocco, the New York Times has presented two important Croatian women in this country's national team with a longer service than many of the male members. Iva Olivari and Ivancica Sudac served in the Croatian Football Association even before joining FIFA. For them, it's a bigger-than-life job.

Olivari, according to the publication by The New York Times, followed Luka Modric from the very beginning. He was a mere seven years old when Olivari joined the nascent Croatian Football Association.

"You watch him grow, you watch him become a man. That's the journey we've been through," she said.

She has known Modric (who is now 37) since he was just a teenager, just a few years after the war forced him out of his hometown and made him a refugee. She remembers how he made his way through the Croatian youth teams, how he left Croatia to make a name for himself in the biggest European leagues, how he led Croatia in an incredible performance to the World Cup final and helped the mighty Real Madrid win trophy after trophy.

She didn't follow only Luka Modric on his way to the top of the top. She was also present when legendary players like Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban and Robert Prosinecki were at the very beginning of their careers.

However, Olivari isn't the one with the longest tenure in HNS, or even the woman with the longest tenure in the Association: that title is held by her colleague Ivancica Sudac, who is also one of the Croatian women with the longest tenure spent in European football. Sudac joined the Alliance way back in 1991, a few months earlier than Olivari, when the two were barely in their 20s.

"The two of us are like two dinosaurs," 51-year-old Olivari said with a laugh, reports tportal.

Ivancica Sudac, on the other hand, was a law student who had very little interest in football when she received an invitation to join the Federation a year before it was officially recognised by FIFA. While campaigning for membership in the midst of the Croatian War of Independence and the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia, she managed because she was fluent in several languages, including French and English. She is currently the head of international affairs and licensing within the federation.

Olivari came shortly after her. She had just returned home to Croatia from the USA after giving up her dream of a tennis career, answering an ad in a newspaper. She and Sudac were actually the founders of the international department of the Croatian Football Association.

These two Croatian women worked together for a long time, first translating thousands of pages of international sports regulations into Croatian, and then writing letters to foreign federations to convey the demands of the highest officials. For the first few years, the pair even worked on a typewriter before being introduced to a primitive word processor that they would share by turning the screen around to each other every few hours.

By 2012, Sudac had become one of the highest-ranking women in European football's governing body, UEFA. For Olivari, who assumed the role of more direct work with the Croatian national team back in 2002, a major development took place when former striker Davor Suker became president of the Association.

In 2016, Suker made, as Olivari says, a "brave decision" after consulting with former captain Dario Srna and Anto Cacic, the coach of the national team at the time, and assigned her a place on the bench as team leader, the first in the women's competition.

Neither Olivari nor Sudac, even after more than 30 years within the Association, have any intention of resigning anytime soon. Sudac, who is now a senior member of football's governing body FIFA, says there is no other job she could imagine ever doing. Olivari says she still feels the same rush of adrenaline every time she steps out and sits on the bench. Both of these dedicated Croatian women say their roles still bring them the same sense of mission now as they did as sports representatives of the then-new and independent nation of Croatia.

For more, check out our news section. Keep up with our sport section as Croatia gears up to face its opponents in Qatar.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Where to Watch Croatia’s Upcoming World Cup Games in London

May 7, 2022 - With the 2022 FIFA World Cup coming up in Qatar during the months of November and December, anticipation and excitement is high for Croatia football fans. 

To recap, the World Cup starts on 21 November with the final to be played on 18 December. Croatia will play against the following teams:

  • Morocco - Wednesday, 23 November
  • Canada - Sunday, 27 November
  • Belgium - Thursday, 1 December

Many fans are now starting to plan their locations and venues to view the games at, particularly if they choose to view the games in Qatar. Croatia has football fans located all around the world, from the United States and Canada to the United Kingdom - particularly due to the growing Croatian communities in those countries. For those based in London, UK, here's a short list of different pubs and bars that are showing the World Cup this year, and that are in general a great place to hang out, eat and drink, and celebrate Croatia making it to the World Cup for the 6th time.

Bar Kick

​​The “Home Of Live Sport in Shoreditch”, this basement venue regularly shows every World Cup match in honour of their international clientele, meaning the Croatia games should attract a number of fellow supporters and Croatian viewers alike. Watch the games on their 60- and 80-inch TVs, enjoy their sports menu and daily Happy Hour, and get into the football spirit by playing your own competitive games on their Bonzini table football.

Sports Bar and Grill

As the name suggests, this chain venue is dedicated to showing live sport from every major world football league to rugby, in addition to preparing top quality food such as their legendary burgers and grills. Showing every World Cup match live at the bar, make sure to book a table in advance in order to view Croatia’s game on one of their massive HD screens, with a few friends and a refreshing pint in hand - there is even the option to order your own 5l keg of BrewDog beer for £42.50. 

There are six Sports Bars in London, including Victoria, Farringdon, Marylebone, Old Street, Clapham Junction, and Canary Wharf. So no matter where you're located, there should be at least one venue close by or easy to reach.

The Albion

As their website proudly states, live sport is in their DNA. So it’s safe to say that this pub, bar and restaurant is a good pick for watching the World Cup. Located right in the City (a few minutes away from the Blackfriars station), their 5 big screens showing Sky Sports and BT Sports over two floors cover live footage of every international sports tournament from the World Cup to Formula 1 to Tour de France. Book your table in advance to ensure you get the best view when you come to watch Croatia play.