Croatia-born Youth Soccer Coach Mario Mrakovic Finally Gets The Right to Brag – along with millions of other Croatian Soccer Fans.
First Time WC Finalist – Who would have believed it?
When Croatia advanced after defeating England in the 2018 FIFA World Cup semifinal, many in the soccer-loving world were surprised. The 2-1 victory in Extra Time eliminated England’s bid for World Cup domination — and it was their first bid to advance to the final since their historic 1966 fame. When Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic found the back of the net in the 109th minute, the world started to wonder how far can Croatia go? Giving hope to underdogs all over, Croatia takes on France in the Final.
In the Southern California world of youth soccer and especially in America’s Finest City of San Diego, if a kid starts playing youth soccer when they are young, they know the name of San Diego Surf SC youth soccer coach Mario Mrakovic. A force on the soccer fields as well as on the futsal courts — Mrakovic founded SD Futsal in 1995 — this is a coach who has always been determined to help his players learn the basics of great technical achievement.
Dedicated to starting youth soccer players on the right path in grassroots soccer, he is well known in the circles of elite player development. For years, Mrakovic, who holds a U.S. Youth Soccer “A” Coaching License, has been a proud man from Croatia immersed in a sea of British coaches. Finally, he gets to say, “Croatia is a World Cup finalist — who would have believed it.”
Here is Mario Mrakovic’s guest column on what is happening in the FIFA World Cup right now.
Croatia is a country of 4 million people. The country of Croatia is the story of its National Soccer Team in the World Cup Finals this Sunday.
Croatia is the smallest country to be in the FIFA World Cup finals in the past 70 years.
Croatia is the first country which, losing by a goal in three consecutive games during overtime, came out as the winner.
This might surprise many, but it shouldn’t if you take a closer look.
The Right Coach.
First, Croatian Soccer Federation gave the coaching job to Zlatko Dalic when Croatia was on the verge of failing to qualify for the World Cup.
Dalic was the right person, at the right time. Dalic had spent over five years coaching abroad and proved himself in many difficult and challenging circumstances. He is a coach who understands the game, a student of the game and a coach who is only interested in winning.
Dalic is a coach who doesn’t accept losing — and is obsessed emotionally and mentally with his job. His quality is also being a wonderful person and surrounding himself with the best people and the best assistant coaches. Dalic is an excellent communicator with his players and he puts a high emphasis on the Croatian National Team being sacred and above everything and everyone.
The second thing crucial to Croatia’s success at the 2018 World Cup is that the first team players are all in their prime and have played together for a significant period of time.
All of the Croatia National Team players play on top European teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Monaco, Juventus, among others and they all see this tournament as theirs to win.
Modesty without Bravado and Arrogance.
They have always believed they are good enough to go all the way.
These players, nor their coaches gave any bombastic predictions and comments prior to or during this World Cup, but it is no secret — the Croatia National team did not come to the tournament to participate, they came to go all the way and win.
Team Being First. Thinking as One.
The team atmosphere has never been better since day one. Everyone breaths as one. Everyone is committed to each other.
Nikola Kalinic from A.C. Milan wasn’t and he was sent home packing. How must he feel now…?
Third, Croatia had the luxury of playing this tournament in Russia — a Slavic country as its own, where every player feels comfortable due to the familiar and home friendly environment.
Smart Strategy and Good Timing.
And, Croatia played all of their six games in the evening hours, which fits Croatia perfectly and contributed heavily on the turnaround and recovery effort. Croatia was very smart to rest nine of its players in the third round against Iceland during the bracket play when it was already first place in the group.
Proud to Fight In The Name of Croatia.
Croatian players fight for the result and for their country every time they step onto the field. They have a different national sentiment than all other countries.
Croatia is one of the most patriotic teams out of all 32 that came to the tournament.
The team plays with heart, national pride, with guts and bravery. Croatian players are tough and strong physically and mentally. They have an incredible support and fanatical following from all the Croatian population, from all around the world.
In comparison, the Croatian National team’s achievement of 3rd place in the 1998 World Cup was a driving force to come from out of the shadow and to establish a new successful generation of players, the new Bobans, Prosineckis, Bilics, Jarnis …
In a way, this is the perfect storm and all these things lead up to this success.
I predicted Croatia to be playing France in the finals before the tournament started and joked with my French friend Laurent for a while now to be seeing each other in the finals.
To me and my friends, the World Cup Final matchup doesn’t come as any surprise.
Achieving this — getting into the World Cup Final — this success means a lot to Croatia and to Croatian soccer. Of course, it means more than anything else in the world.
This is the best thing that could have ever happened to this small country.
Due to social media and following, the whole world now learns about Croatia. The monetary reward from FIFA to the Croatian National Federation will be huge.
It should trickle down into building new youth training grounds and investing in youth soccer that desperately needs money influx.
The Croatian youth system has great leadership but has little funding and real support. Because of this great success at the 2018 World Cup, there will be so many new Modrics, Mandzukics, Rakitics, Perisics, Vidas in the future
No matter what happens on Sunday, Croatia is already a big winner in this tournament.
As a youth soccer coach from Croatia living in the USA, I feel that what the country has claimed cannot be expressed by words, explained or understood.
This changes everything. Things will never be the same.
Croatia will finally start receiving the respect that it deserves and many more talented youngsters will be getting opportunities at bigger soccer clubs. The little kids watching the games will look at their idols and dream of becoming one of them in the future.
And, the future of Croatian soccer was never this bright as it is today. Proud to be Croatian.