85th Minute – Davor Suker, Croatia v Germany, World Cup Quarter Final 1998
Having gained independence a mere seven years earlier and joined FIFA a year later in 1992, Croatian football didn’t take long to establish itself as a force to be reckoned with. Croats were an integral part of the Yugoslavia U20 side that took the World Youth Championships in Chile by storm in 1987. A promising showing at Euro 96 where they beat Denmark and Turkey on their way to a quarter final defeat to Germany provided the platform for a successful World Cup qualifying campaign that concluded with a fairly comfortable play-off win against Ukraine. They headed into France 98 optimistic of getting out their group. They lost to Argentina but wins against Japan, Jamaica and then Romania saw them through to the quarter finals where they faced European Champions Germany and a chance to revenge the defeat two years earlier.
The match looked set to be quite tight but in the first half Germany found themselves down to 10 men when Christian Wörns was sent off in the 40th minute. Croatia made full use of their man advantage, working the ball and the Germans for the fifty minutes that followed. Roberto Jarni scored just before half-time and Goran Vlaovic added a second and the Golden Boot winner of France ’98 was to have the final say…
In the 85th minute with the game already beyond the tired and aging Germans, the ball found its way to Davor Suker in the box…
What Happened Next?
Davor Suker continued to score goals for Real Madrid and Croatia and moved to Arsenal in 1999 where he was mostly used as a sub for one season. He retired from international football in 2002 with 45 goals in 69 games. Croatia went on to lose a close semi-final against hosts and eventual champions France but they did claim 3rd place with a win against Netherlands. It didn’t get better than this for Croatian football but they have continued to produce world class talent and some entertaining sides have produced notable results in the Euros. Croatia open the World Cup against hosts Brazil on 12th June.