Croatia did what Croatia do so well…
Perhaps the most impressive part of Croatia’s World Cup heroics this time around was the fact that they did it surrounded by questions of tiredness, ageing players, as well as frank doubts about the quality of their squad.
They got to the final of the competition last year, against France , losing a crazy game that saw six goals, one a penalty, one an own goal and another from a terrifically silly goalkeeping error from eventual winner, Hugo Lloris.
This year they sandwiched a 4-1 smashing of funbags Canada between two 0-0 draws, firstly against Morocco (but you knew that already) and then Belgium .
In the next round, Croatia started to do typical Croatia things: win on penalties. They took Japan for a long, slow 120 minute tango before ending their dreams 3-1 from the spot.
Then came Brazil , who had appeared to be taking the World Cup by storm, yellow shirts flashing around as though they were a swarm of a thousand samba-infused wasps; Croatia made them look more like 11 clumsy versions of Big Bird from Sesame Street.
The European side scored an equaliser in the 117th minute after a fantastic Neymar goal, taking the game through the magic portal to the infamous penalty realm, where the Croatians do their business. And they did. Brazil missed two from 5 and Croatia had made it to the final four again.
They came up against Argentina , who had had problems of their own, losing on the opening day to Saudi Arabia and looking like Messi was crashing out in tears. But they evolved since that day into a beast that nobody can quite describe, but one that works to its strengths and they defeated Modric’s side 3-0.