Dear Croatian national team,
First of all, I hope you are having a wonderful season so far and are looking forward to the World Cup as much as I am.
I still remember one of the first letters I ever wrote. It was 1998, the summer after we won the bronze medal at the FIFA World Cup. I was 8 years old and football was everywhere. My cousin and I wrote letters to our fave players (that we might have had a crush on) - my favourite was Goran Vlaović, hers was Dario Šimić, and both were part of that fantastic team which I still can name every single player from, even 24 years later.
That’s what the World Cup meant to me back then, and I’m sure most other kids too. After several tough years in the early 1990s, playing with your friends in the street or on the football field was the best thing ever.
I still remember the celebrations after beating Germany, even in the little village I grew up in. Can we do that again this year, please? So my baby daughter can perhaps have these wonderful memories of her childhood too.
You all know that a lot has changed in Croatia, and the world in general, over these 24 years, but we are still very much obsessed with football and the national team. Through ups and downs - from not qualifying for the 2010 tournament, to winning the silver medal last time around - Croatia always lives and breathes the national team during big competitions.
I’m sure you, just like us, will never forget the summer of 2018: the tournament, the incredible celebratory day when the team arrived home. We’d love to see you do something similar this time around. Even though this World Cup will be different in many ways to the last, and happening during winter, I know many Croats will travel to the hot Qatar, and the atmosphere will be fantastic back home too. You know how passionate we can be and how our support can lift the team up during tough moments in games.
The atmosphere is so important for us Croats - we’re emotional and passionate people. I love that there seems to be a really great atmosphere in the squad too, both on and off the pitch, and I hope it continues throughout the competition (and beyond!). A mixture of young players like Joško Gvardiol and Lovro Majer, and those more experienced ones - led by one and only Luka Modrić - seems like a winning combination to me. I am excited to see how far we’ll go.
Dear Zlatko Dalić: you don’t have an easy job! Sometimes it’s tougher to pick a team when you have so many good players to choose from, but I’m sure you’ll do a great job once again. After five amazing years in charge, you know the squad better than anyone else. My only advice, however, would be to play Andrej Kramarić in his favoured position (we’re from the same village so of course I have a soft spot for him).
Dear players: do your best on the pitch. Be as passionate as you were in Russia in 2018 and maybe you can come home with the trophy this time around. Is it possible? Well, the ball is round, we have a great team, I think anything can happen! Just play every match like it’s the cup final and we’ll be okay.
I’ll be cheering from back home in Croatia, in Dalić’s city of Varaždin, and explaining to my baby daughter that it's not a bad thing if mommy shouts at the TV!
Good luck, and u boj u boj za narod svoj!