The World Cup has been filled with plenty of excitement, but none more-so than Croatia’s stunning upset against England in extra time. The tiny country will be in its first World Cup finals against the powerful French Les Bleus. But many of you, like me, may not know much about this small country. There is more to this little country than what meets the eye.
With a population of just over 4 million, Croatia is one of the smallest countries in Europe by population. In comparison, there are barely more people in Croatia than there is in the city of Los Angeles, whereas New York City is more than double. There are only 23 states that have a smaller population.
When you think of an HBO series, most people will immediately consider Game of Thrones. A portion of the series was filmed in Croatia along their coast. Another fun fact about the coastline is that Alfred Hitchcock considered the sunsets there more beautiful than that of Key West, Florida.
Croatia is also given credit for the Dalmatian breed. Illustrations of the breed are found as early as the 17th century and originally used as war dogs. In American culture, the breed is usually associated with fire departments and Disney’s 101 Dalmatians. The breed is known for being easy to train, loyal to their owners, and kid-friendly.
Athletic-wise, the most popular sports in Croatia are football (soccer), handball, water polo, hockey, skiing, and swimming. The country also faired quite well in the 2016 Winter Olympics earning 10 medals including 5 gold. However, in the 2018 Olympics, Croatia was shut out as it only had 26 competitors in 4 sports.
So why is Croatia getting so much hype? First of all, everyone loves an underdog. For a country as small as them, it feels like a David vs Goliath match. If we look at Super Bowl 52, everyone was expecting the New England Patriots to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a Super Bowl XXIX Matchup. The Patriots had the talent, but the underdog Eagles held their own and went on to win with a backup quarterback. They are also the second smallest country to ever reach the World Cup finals. The last team to do so was Uruguay who, at the time, had a population of just 1.7 million people. Lastly, this is the rematch of the 1998 Semi-final world cup where Croatia took 3rd place and France went on to win the World Cup. With France stacked with so much talent, many are backing Croatia in hopes of an upset.
Croatia came out of nowhere to be the Cinderella team that everyone hopes to join. Even if they do not pull off the upset, they just became an instant household name.