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While France's run to the World Cup final has been predictable, Croatia's has been anything but. We talk about how Croatia has managed to make it to the World Cup final and how it's managed to combat its off-the-field obstacles. 

By Grant Wahl and Brian Straus
July 11, 2018

France's romp through the World Cup is something that many before the tournament saw coming but Croatia's run has been significantly more surprising. Croatia has now survived three straight 120-minute matches—against Denmark, Russia and England—and has managed to make it all the way to the World Cup final, where it will play a heavily favored French team. Can Croatia finish its stunning run by beating France or will its run come to an end on Sunday? We talk about that and much more on Wednesday's podcast.

Listen to the full episode below, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to hear each episode throughout the 2018 World Cup.

Here's a snippet of the latest episode:

BRIAN STRAUS: You've brought this up a couple times and obviously I'm sure we'll delve into it in the next few days but this [Croatia] team, this program, this federation is total chaos. 

GRANT WAHL: (laughs)

BS: And firing coaches, lawsuits—I was reading an article today that said a lot of Croatia didn't even like Luka Modric because he was involved in the Dynamo Zagreb trial—and they fired their coach, as you've mentioned a couple times, right at the end of qualifying. They've done everything wrong and I wrote an article at some point in the past month, days don't matter anymore about teams that are successful at World Cups and teams that win World Cups and look to copy them and look at them as blueprints going forward. There is nothing about Croatia, nothing, that represents any kind of blueprint or checklist. And yet here they are and it is the World Cup of chaos. 

You have a team that was supposed to be here, for which nothing less than an appearance at the Luzhniki [Stadium] on Sunday would have been acceptable. And that really never really left second gear to get there. And then you have a team that has no business being here for all the aforementioned reasons and yet through just sheer immensity and effort and resilience has got there. I think they're the 13th different country to make a World Cup final. Maybe 14 but I think 13. And they're the first Eastern European team to make a World Cup final since 1962, I believe, since Czechoslovakia—which is not even a country anymore—made it. So we're getting a World Cup of continuity and a World Cup of change all meeting together on Sunday. 

GW: Yeah, there's a good article in The Guardian, by Aleksander Holiga that I suggest everyone read, about Croatia and he's one of the authorities on Croatia. Basically saying what you're saying, which is, in the media we always want to show what's a model for success and we want to be able to explain in rational terms why this positive thing is happening, results-wise, on the field. Basically, his story comes down to this federation in Croatia is chaos. Their youth development really isn't that well organized. They fire their coaches all the time. And there's no explanation really that can be used as a model. 

BS: Yeah, there's corruption. I mean, obviously, Luka Modric is a generational player and so you've got some talent up there alongside him. They had a tough group, obviously. They have not, on paper had tough opposition in the knockout stage and you could maybe look at their team and say that a team with that talent and those names has made tougher work of Denmark, Russia and England than they should have. 

Continue listening in the podcast above or download and subscribe to the podcast here.

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