Croatia’s Luka Modric (centre) celebrates with team mates after the final whistle of the FIFA World Cup, Semi Final match at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow.

With the World Cup now over we take a look at the secrets to runners-up, Croatia’s, success throughout the tournament.

Confident team spirit

From the offset of the World Cup, Croatia maintained a first-rate team spirit- with the intention to go far in the tournament. Out of the 23-man squad that travelled to Russia, each player who made an appearance undoubtedly has made the country proud. From the back line of Subasic to the attacking option of Mandzukic, their performance was excellent.

Inspirational captain

Luka Modric. Without Modric in the engine room, his country would have struggled. He is a leader no doubt. Winning four champions leagues at Real Madrid, his ability speaks for itself, albeit winning trophies is a team effort.

Modric’s vision for passes was first-class earning him several assists and he notched a couple of goals throughout the tournament also. Due to Modric’s excellent performance, he also picked up the Golden Ball for the player of the tournament.

Athleticism

The country’s remarkable athleticism is undoubtedly another reason why they reached the World Cup final. You only really have to look at the Round of 16 and quarter-final to see their high fitness in the squad as in both of those matches, they went to extra time and penalty shootouts against Denmark and Russia, winning both. For example, Luka Modric ran 63km and the centre half Domagoj Vida ran 62.5KM.

Passionate supporters

They were also backed by many passionate Croatian fans in Russia who supported them throughout. Despite the country’s small population (4.2 million), They still managed to create an warm atmosphere and the players could feel that presence and support of the fans on the pitch. It is estimated there was around 40,000 fans in Russia supporting the nation.

Penalty shootout success

Finally, the success of the nation in penalty shootouts shouldn’t go unspoken about. They would have surely been tired following 120 minutes of regular game time yet still showed skill and togetherness to advance. Their success is largely courtesy of the reliable custodian- Danijel Subasic making some crucial saves to ensure his national side advanced in the prolific tournament.

Words by Matthew Hunter