You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Croatian person who was alive back then who doesn’t remember THAT game.
It was 1996. The country was still very, very young, the war was mostly over (not the entire country was still unified and under our government, but the last step in that process would be finished peacefully), and the Croatian national football team has just qualified for the European championships that year, to be hosted by England in June. It was the first international competition for the Croatian team, after having qualified as top of their group, in front of Italy, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovenia and Estonia.
The team was powerful. Robert Jarni played for Betis then, coming from Juventus and on his way to Real Madrid, Igor Ň†timac was in Derby County, Slaven Bilińá at West Ham, Robert Prosineńćki was in Barcelona, Davor Ň†uker in Sevilla (having already signed for Real Madrid), Zvonimir Boban was in Milan, Alen BokŇ°ińá in Lazio. The optimism was sky-high, they were seen off to the championship seen as favourites by the Croatian public.¬†
The first game they played was against Turkey, and we beat them with a late goal by Goran Vlaovińá in Nottingham.
And then came the second group stage game, against the you-know-who.
The defending European champions at that point. (BTW, do you know the story how the Danes qualified for that championship, which was played in 1992 and where they became the surprise-champions? Funny you should ask: they haven’t really, Yugoslavia has, but having had fallen apart, with the bloody war raging here, UEFA decided that Yugoslavia can’t put together a joint team, that there’s no way to let just one of the republics fill that seat and that they’d disqualify Yugoslavia and put the third team from their qualifying group into that Euro. That team was Denmark. Found out they were going to the tournament 10 days before – ended up winning).
Laudrup brothers. And the keeper, one of the most legendary goalkeepers of our time, Peter Schmeichel, tall, blond and playing for Manchester United for ages, was in the Danish team, one can almost say playing on home turf, having been in the Premiership since 1991.¬†
And then the game started, and this happened:
Let’s see that last goal once more, shall we:¬†
(This article is written as a reply to “It’s Time to Remember what the Danes did to us“)
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