The red and white win again on penalties: after Japan, Brazil mourns. Monstrous statistic for Modric and his companions from 1998 to today: every time he passes the group he flies straight to the semifinals
It’s not even a surprise anymore. Other than “they are four years older than in 2018”, “they play without a real centre-forward”, “there is no generational change”. Croatia, which at the last census had fewer than 4 million inhabitants, is one of the worst customers that can happen on the road of those who want to lift the World Cup. Especially from the round of 16 onwards, because the Balkans in the knockout phase turn into a battleship. Able to send home the Brazil of Neymar and various artists, who sings on the tree for almost 120 minutes and within a very short time finds himself on the return flight to Rio De Janeiro.
Sweat and exaltation
Croatia, on the other hand, is not, it is small and proud. He doesn’t sing, he runs: the second game in a row that drags on beyond extra time, no signs of letting up for the red and whites who have many fans in the stands in water polo vests and in fact resemble decathletes. People who work harder and have more fun: the penalties against Selecao are a triumph of coolness and precision, in spite of tiredness. As in 1998 and 2018, Croatia passes the group and flies to the semi-final: a science fiction fact, Modric and his associates are a diesel that fuels slowly. And they get excited when the ball is hot, like against Japan and Brazil: in both cases Croatia went behind in the score and found the strength to equalize. Another interesting fact: in this World Cup, Dalic’s team has won only one match in the 90′, the one against Canada (4-1 in the group stage). Then only very sweet draws.
We would then have to talk about the relationship that the red and whites have with extra time: since the French World Cup in ’98, the Balkans have played 10 direct elimination matches, and in 5 of these they had to go beyond 90′. The Croatians took them home on all five occasions: in 2018 they made Denmark and Russia (on penalties) and England (on extra time) cry, this time the penalties that the Japanese and green and gold “matano”. A real redemption for a former Yugoslav national team, or one belonging to that collective imagination of missed penalties and defeats just one step away from eternal glory. Croatia remains cold and lucid: sometimes a draw is enough to send such a proud people into celebration. With a curiosity: the crazy flight of the Balkans towards the World Cup was interrupted, in 1998 and 2018, again by France. This time Mbappé is far away: he can cross the red and white chess only in a possible final which would be a remix of Russia 2018. Now it’s too early to think about it: little Croatia has shot down the “cicada” Brazil, now it’s the Croatians’ turn to dance.
December 9th – 7.39pm
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