World Cup 2018: Beaten Black & Blue

It may be too soon to talk about modern classics, but when we look back on the top kits at Russia 2018, the surprise package will be the black and blue away shirts of Croatia.

Croatia wore black and blue as they booked their place in their first World Cup final after beating England in extra-time to win the “dark horse” semi-final at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium with goals from Ivan Perišić and Mario Mandžukić.

Back to Black

The darker look has been like a picture of the iconic red and white chequered shirts we’ve come to instantly recognise as Croatian, only in negative.

No country has worn black at the World Cup finals with such effect since Italy in the days of Benito Mussolini.

Modrić, Rakitić and friends have reclaimed the colour and worn their away kits in all but one of their matches, with memorable wins over Argentina, Denmark, Russia and most importantly, England.

Few had tipped Croatia or England to reach the semi-finals when the draw was made.

Whilst Croatian kits are always popular, at the start of the finals, pundits plumped for the usual suspects of France, Germany, Brazil and perennial outsiders tip Belgium as their picks for World Cup glory.

As the fancied fell away, Croatia topped their group and grew stronger through 3 gut-wringing knock-out rounds of penalties and extra-time.

Make no mistake, the country of just 4.4 million proud people absolutely deserve their place in Sunday’s final.

When we look back on Russia 2018 in years to come and remember the tournament’s shirts, football supporters will think of moments of glory and ecstasy rather than posed photo-shoots.

It may be hard for England fans to see it so close to that night in Moscow, but those black and blue shirts will live long in the memory, having been seared into our minds just like West Germany’s “Turin Green” of Italia 90.

The red and white chequered shirts instantly recognisable as Croatian will be worn with pride in Sunday’s World Cup final against France.

In years to come, the blue and the black may well be just as iconic.

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