“Malo nas je al' nas ima, nije vazno srusit cemo snove svima.” (There’s a small number of us, but there is us. It’s not important, we’ll smash the dreams of others)
Zagreb: In the hours leading up to Croatia’s semi-final match against England on Wednesday night, the chorus of Boris Novkovic’s iconic Croatian rock ballad echoed around Zagreb. Before the match, it was sung in mostly in defiance. After stunning a wealthy giant nation that believed they were the true home of the World Cup, that chorus was bellowed out until sunrise as tens of thousands brought the capital to a standstill, firmly believing in every word of the song.
Twenty-four years ago, Croatia – as we now know it – didn’t exist. Today, a modest country of four million people is just one game away from becoming world champions after reaching the final of the World Cup for the first time in their short history. After toppling the likes of England, hosts Russia and the Lionel Messi-lead Argentina, the small Balkan nation faces one last giant in France and already, the entire nation has been swept away by Croatia’s class of 2018.
They have endeared themselves by doing it the hard way – going through extra time in all three knock-out games. But they are also a team that have proven to be a unifying force in a fiercely divided region. Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic has been perhaps their greatest hero thus far, helping Croatia progress past Denmark and Russia in two penalty shootout victories. It has made him among the most idolised figures in his nation, despite his Serbian background.