Davor Suker and Zvonimir Boban helped Croatia to a stunning third-placed finish France 20 years ago, and the 2018 class - after years of promise - stand on the cusp of emulating that side but must first negotiate Saturday's clash against hosts Russian Federation in Sochi.
That could have been their fate had they lost their last group game to England, who have been handsomely rewarded for finishing runners-up with - on paper - what appears to be a far easier route to the final. "We know with Tite's Brazil and particularly with Neymar and Coutinho, this is a real World Cup contender". Most of our pundits have gone for a France win; only Gab Marcotti bucks the trend by saying Uruguay will make the semifinals.
The most boring match went to Switzerland and Sweden, which the Scandinavian nation won 1-0, advancing to the quarters.
With players such as world-class midfielder Luca Modric and a string of top-level forwards including Mario Mandzukic, Ante Rebic, Andrej Kramaric and Perisic, Zlatko Dalic's team scored at least two goals in each of their three group matches, including firing three past hapless Argentina.
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It is here that the habitual battle between football's two dominant continents, who have produced all previous World Cup winners, will take place. "The growth of tourists visiting the World Cup host cities was from 19% in Moscow to 1,678% in Saransk, with the average growth of 74%", the agency head said.
Brazil, usually the game's great entertainers, and Uruguay boast the meanest defenses at the World Cup having both conceded once in their four games.
"We love seeing England do well and would love Gareth Southgate and his side to do well at this World Cup". "They defend as a unit, they play together and they love to do that". Brazil had a rather comfortable game to lead them into the quarter finals whilst Belgium however came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in a thrilling game against dark horses Japan.
Croatia beat Denmark in a penalty shootout in their last-16 clash, goalkeeper Danijel Subasic making three saves in their 3-2 victory.
"Why not?", he said of his team's chances against favourites Croatia, perceived to be a dark horse in this tournament.
Dalic took the team through a play-off against Greece to qualify for the finals and has overseen continued progress despite off-field distractions.