Sunday, October 4, 2009

Croatia national football team

The Croatia national football team represents the Republic of Croatia in international football. The team is controlled by the Croatian Football Federation, the governing body for football in the country, and has been managed since 2006 by Slaven Bilić. A recognized national team represented the short-lived Banovina of Croatia and Independent State of Croatia in nineteen friendly matches between 1940 and 1944. Although this team was affiliated with FIFA, Croatia remained a constituent federal republic of Yugoslavia during the period and did not field a separate team for competitive matches.
The modern team was formed in 1990, shortly before Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia, and by 1993 had gained membership in FIFA and UEFA. The team first played competitive matches in a successful qualifying campaign for UEFA Euro 96, leading to its first appearance at a major European championship. At Croatia's first FIFA World Cup in 1998 the team finished third and provided the tournament's top scorer, Davor Šuker. Since becoming eligible to participate in 1993, Croatia have qualified for every World Cup (several times without losing a match) and have missed only one European Cup tournament, in 2000.
Most home matches are played at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, though some fixtures take place at the Poljud Stadium in Split or at other, smaller venues, depending on the nature of the match. The team was undefeated in its first 36 home competitive matches, the run ending with a 2008 defeat to England.
With a population of just over 4 million, Croatia is arguably the most successful 'small' country in football. Croatia was named FIFA's "Best Mover of the Year" in 1994 and 1998, becoming the only team to win the award more than once. On admission to FIFA, Croatia was ranked 125th in the world; following the 1998 World Cup campaign, the side ranked third, making it the most volatile team in FIFA Rankings history.


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