5 most popular sports in Croatia

When it comes to sports, the Croatians pride themselves on their natural talent, particularly in football. The sport is phenomenally popular and successful in the country, with kids starting it from a very young age.

However, while football may be the most popular sport in the country, it is not the only prevalent sports variant. Just as Croatia has a diverse landscape with its lush greenery and wondrous beaches, the locals also like to indulge in diverse sports and have varying preferences. 

If you are also curious to learn which sports are followed and watched more in Croatia, here is your chance to find out.

Football In Croatia

As suggested earlier, our first obvious choice is football. The national team was recognised by FIFA and UEFA when Yugoslavia was dissolved. The modern-day team has been playing internationally since 1994, when it started playing in the UEFA Euro 1996 qualifiers. The team was second in the FIFA World Cup in 2018, with its players winning the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball, as Luka Modric was awarded the tournament’s best player. The team also reached the quarter-finals in the European Championship in 1996 and 2008

The present team currently ranks 12th in FIFA and is governed by the Croatian Football Federation. It played in the FIFA World Cup in 1998 and finished in third place. The top football division in Croatia’s football league system is Prva NHL. It is the 17th highest league in Europe according to the UEFA ranking. The division follows a promotion and demotion system with the second-tier league Druga NHL. 

The most successful club in the country is Dinamo Zagreb, with 20 championship wins so far. It ranks 77th in Europe. The second most successful club is Hajduk Split, and the rivalry between the two clubs is called the Eternal Derby in the country. 

At the domestic level, the Croatian Cup is organised as the main knockout tournament, while the Croatian Super Cup is played between winners of the Croatian Cup and the Prva NHL.

Handball In Croatia

The next sport on our list is handball. Be it the country’s national handball team or the clubs, Croatia has performed very well. When Croatia gained independence, the sport began to develop in the country. 

The national handball team has been participating in international tournaments since 1991. It won the World Championship in 2003. It also won second place in 1995 and ten years later in 2005, and also secured bronze in 2009 and 2013.

The team also won gold medals in men’s handball in 1996 and 2004. The country hosted the World Championship in 2009 and is set to host again in 2025 with Norway and Denmark. 

Basketball In Croatia

Basketball is another sport quite popular in the country. The national basketball team earned a silver medal in the Olympics in 1992. It also won a bronze in the World Basketball Championship in 1994. The team has also won bronze medals in the EuroBasket twice, in 1993 and 1995. The team is currently in 23rd place in the FIBA rankings.

The country’s basketball clubs have won the EuroLeague five times between 1985 and 1991. The most notable player in the history of Croatian Basketball is Drazen Petrovic, who paved the way for European players to join the NBA. The player passed away in a car accident in 1993. Ten years after his death, Drazen Petrovic was voted the best European Basketball player at the EuroBasket.

Although Croatia may not enjoy the same level of international success it did in the 1990s,  and the sport’s popularity may also have dwindled, it is still one of the most popular sports in the country.

Water Polo In Croatia

Next up, we have water polo. Like other team sports, the Croatian water polo team also started participating internationally when the country gained independence. The national team secured gold medals in the World Championship in 2007 and 2017. It also secured third place in two instances in 2009 and again in 2011. 

In addition, the team won a gold medal in 2010 and a silver medal in 1999 and 2003 in the European Championship. The team was also successful in the Olympics as it got a gold medal in 2012 and a silver medal in 2016 and 1996. 

Water polo is also played at the club level in Croatia. Croatian clubs have won the LEN Champions League, a top-tier European water polo league.

Tennis In Croatia

Lastly, we have tennis on the list. It didn’t take Croatia long after its independence to make a name for itself in international tennis. Croatian player Goran Ivanisevic won the Olympic media in men’s singles in 1992. He also won a medal in men’s doubles with Goran Prpic.

History was repeated in 2004 when Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic won the men’s doubles at the Olympics. The two also won the Davis Cup in 2005 and later in 2018. 

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