Twenty years ago, Croatia made their World Cup debut with a result that had transpired only once previously in the tournament's history. It still remains to be topped. Finishing in third place the first time they participated in football's biggest showcase set a lofty standard.
The Croatians' memorable run to the semi-finals in 1998 remains a moment of pride for the country. It also created a shadow every successive Croatia team has been forced to deal with and has not come close to matching. Until now.
Croatia have already bettered what the 1998 team achieved but they now have an opportunity to beat France in the final and set a new benchmark for the future Croatian teams.
With the all-important final just two days away, let's take a look at some of the other significant moments in Croatian football history:
The first Golden Generation
In 1998, Croatia, which had emerged from a bitter independence war only three years earlier, made their debut at a World Cup final.
With a team featuring Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban and Robert Prosinecki wearing blue shirts with a distinctive red and white chequerboard pattern, they beat World Cup giants Germany 3-0 in the quarter-final in France, sparking delirium at home.
Although Croatia went on to suffer an agonising 2-1 defeat to host nation France in the semi-final, they beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the third-place playoff.
Nicknamed "the Fiery Ones", that team has stood as an example to their successors ever since.
Davor Suker's individual brilliance
Perhaps one of the most iconic players of the 1998 World Cup, Croatia's Suker won the Golden Shoe in his country's maiden appearance at the tournament, which was held in France.
Suker, now the president of the Croatian Football Federation, netted six goals in seven matches. The only match where he didn't score was the Argentina fixture which Croatia lost 1-0.
Triumph over Mannschaft
Both Croatia and Germany had won their first game of the UEFA EURO 2008 and were aware that another victory would put them through to the final eight.
Croatia, who had also defeated the Germans in the 1998 World Cup quarter-final, scored first thanks to Darijo Srna steered past Jens Lehmann. The lead was doubled in the 62nd minute by Ivica Olic, who had also played in the 1998 fixture and put his team on the verge of another famous victory.
Germany's Lukas Podolski did reignite some hope for his team with a 79th-minute goal but Croatia held onto their nerves.
Perisic's late goal stuns Spain
Eight years after the Germany win, Croatia snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat against the European champions Spain. This time around though, the pressure was much less on Croatians, who along with Spain, had advanced to the next round. However, it was not a dead rubber as the result of this match would've decided the toppers of the group.
Croatia went into the match with five changes, while Spain fielded the same XI and were off to a brilliant start as Alvaro Morata gave them the lead in the seventh minute. Nikola Kalinic equalised in the 45th minute and a spectacular late goal by Ivan Perisic helped his team edge Spain and top Group D
"This was an important result for us. We beat the European champions, a really strong team, but it isn't about this one match. We are a very strong team, we can play anyone and try to be successful," former Croatia coach Ante Cacic said after the win.
With inputs from Agencies
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Updated Date: Jul 13, 2018 17:54:05 IST