In hindsight Croatia's shocking 3-0 tour de force against
Germany in the quarterfinals last Saturday shouldn't have been
so startling. Croatia's roster includes four players from
Yugoslavia's storied 1987 under-20 world champion team and nine
starters who perform in one of the world's top four leagues
(Italy, England, Spain or Germany). Moreover, Germany was the
oldest team in the Cup (average age: 30.3), and its lineup had
hardly changed since Euro '96. In that tournament Germany
eliminated Croatia 2-1 in the quarterfinals. "We learned a lot
from that game," said Croatian defender Slaven Bilic last
Saturday. "They have only one creative player, Thomas Hassler.
If you stop him, you only have to deal with the flanks, and we
concentrated on them very well tonight."
Suker (left) and newcomer Croatia were not in awe of
In fact, the truly stunning development in Lyons was the
Germans' uncharacteristic churlishness after the match. They
targeted their wrath at Norwegian referee Rune Pedersen, who had
ejected German defender Christian Worns in the 40th minute for a
bone-rattling foul on striker Davor Suker. "He is responsible
for this picture of misery," German defender Lothar Matthaus
said of Pedersen. Prominent in that locker room picture was
Worns, who bawled ceaselessly despite being consoled by German
chancellor Helmut Kohl. "It's a joke," Worns muttered later.
In a Cup that had been short on surprises until last weekend,
Croatia's win may have signaled the beginning of a new world
order in soccer. Three countries with a combined eight world
championships (Argentina, Italy and Germany) lost in the
quarters to three countries that have never raised the trophy
(the Netherlands, France and Croatia, respectively). Suker sized
up the moment when he compared Croatia's victory with its loss
to Germany two years ago. "It was David meeting Goliath then,"
he said. "Now, who is who?"
Issue date: July 13, 1998