As the sound of the final whistle fills the air in a battle for bronze, a whole nation springs to its feet, and an echo of elation is heard throughout Croatia.
With the conclusion of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, the Croatian national football team led by Luka Modrić took home third place and, with it, a bronze medal that shines like gold.
This achievement has seen Croatian football fans welcome home their team home, with thousands of supporters lining the streets of Zagreb showing up in support of their heroes.
Because they are.
As a country with a population of just 3.8 million people, the Croatian national team has taken on and conquered legendary football nations such as Brazil, with a population 55 times that of Croatia.
Statistically, the odds are ludicrous.
And definitely not in our favor.
Defiantly, we persevere, we play as one, and we prevail.
And yet many still don’t understand the hype.
But the truth is, this isn’t just about football.
Despite the historical, economic and political challenges that this small yet mighty country has endured, we always fight on.
This fighting spirit and unity carry the Croatian national football team to success. It is the drive that gets us up in the morning and, despite the odds, helps us overcome our most significant obstacles.
With the likes of Neymar, Messi, Mbappé and De Bruyne gracing the world’s most popular sport, there is certainly no shortage of talent on the field. More often than not, though, stars like these are privileged enough to have a special standing in their team’s hierarchy.
Zlatko Dalić, the manager of the Croatian team, defies this trend so that even newcomers are encouraged to make their voices heard. Instead, he takes a low-key approach, entrusting the captain, Luka Modrić, and his seasoned teammates to lead by example.
There is a certain sense of pride that comes with representing your country, and in the words of Dalić, “What we do, we do for Croatia.”
It’s that simple.
This is also reflected in an interview given by Modrić in the new FIFA+ docuseries titled Captains.
“Being captain of Croatia is the realisation of all my dreams,” he says. “Playing for Croatia is sacred for us. It’s an indescribable kind of love. There’s no better feeling for me than playing for my country. I would love to keep playing for my country as long as they need me and as long I can help them.”
As a team that is often mistakenly overlooked, the Croatian football team yet again brought our nation front and centre of the footballing stage to prove that Croatia is a force to be reckoned with. Since 1998, Croatia accompanies Germany and France to claim the most top-three finishes in the FIFA World Cup.
But this success isn’t only confined to football.
In fact, Croatia has an array of talent in many fields, winning accolades on the world stage in the following sports:
And that’s just to name a few. This relentless mentality of never giving up clearly runs through the veins of the Croatian people.
It’s easy to lose your head as you become a sporting legend. Egos become inflated. Rumours about diva-like behaviour quickly start to circle.
The same cannot be said for Luka Modrić. After decades of playing the game, he is still described as a gentleman, a class act, and someone with a heart of gold. After taking down the Brazilian team, Modrić put aside his celebrations in order to console his Real Madrid teammate, Rodrygo, who was visibly distraught after the game.
Coming from a humble background and living in a war-torn nation has undoubtedly shaped the captain into the man he is today. Still, he is idolised by players on the Croatian national team.
Not only does he offer brilliance on the pitch physically, but he is also a mentor, guiding his teammates and offering emotional support throughout.
Proving that he is in a league of his own, Modrić always goes above and beyond, displaying kindness and compassion at every turn.
While Croatia did not take the top spot in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar this year, the team was certainly celebrated as if it did. Their skill, humility, fiery spirit, unity, and endless love towards their nation displayed by the players are all qualities that pushed them to their success.
As one of the smallest nations to participate, it cannot be denied that quantity doesn’t always equal quality.
From one small but mighty team to another, we at Bruneko Charter want to say thank you for making us proud. Again, and again.