Editor’s note: Each day between now and the kickoff of the first match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Nov. 20, we’ll unveil a different memory from World Cup history. The countdown from 101 continues with Croatia’s Cinderella run at Russia ’18.
Every modern World Cup final has been contested by the usual suspects. Of the 10 championship matches between 1978 and 2014, every one was between teams that had reached a final before. Seven of eight were previous winners. A new nation hadn’t reached the ultimate winner-take-all game in sports since the Netherlands did it in 1974.
In 2018, Croatia went off-script for the first time in 40 years. Led by Real Madrid maestro Luka Modrić, the Croatians surprised just about everyone on planet futbol by advancing to the finale against France. Being on the easier side of the knockout bracket no doubt helped; Modrić’s side beat humble Denmark, a weak Russian team and a then-overrated England side. Meanwhile, Les Bleus had to go through a pair of two-time champs in Argentina and Uruguay, and then Belgium, FIFA’s top-ranked team at the time.
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