With the match-up for the World Cup finals now decided, it’s time to appreciate the under the radar football phenom that is Croatia.

Though the country was ranked #20 in the world going into the World Cup group stage, the fact that a country of little more than 4 million people fielded a team capable of making it to the World Cup finals is a miracle.

Balkan Breadbasket for Footballers

For every million people that live in Croatia, 78 of them go on to become professional international soccer players. This is a staggering level of skill for such a small country.

Only Montenegro and Uruguay produce a higher number of pro footballers per capita.

With 4 out of 5 of the top talent producing countries per capita sitting in the Balkans, it’s a given that every pro scout should have a summer home in this region.

 

Croatia is Making History in Multiple Ways

This may be the first World Cup final for Croatia, but what is even more impressive is the fact that Croatia has now set a new record as the team with the smallest relative population to ever make a World Cup final.

To calculate this we looked at the world population in every World Cup year going back to 1950 as well as the population of both teams home countries.

Population data for the 3 World Cups before 1950 are less reliable, but even so, teams in the finals were similar to the post 1950 world, making the record set by Croatia still valid.

On average, a country that makes it to the World Cup final has 1.2% of the global population.

Dynasties like Brazil are higher than average at closer to 2.9% while Croatia and Uruguay are definitively the smallest at 0.05% and 0.09% respectively.

Uruguay may have had a smaller absolute population of 2.3 million in 1950, but relative to the global population at the time, Croatia’s population is fielding a world calibre team from a much smaller pool than any other country in history.

Irrespective of the outcome, Croatia has slayed giants.