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What We Know About Croatia

England take on Croatia tonight in the country's biggest World Cup match since 1966.

To try and ease the nerves ahead of the crunch semi-final in Moscow, here's a lowdown on our opponents: From their batty proverbs to their love for eating lamb heads whole (eyes and all).

Fun facts

  • If you are good mates with a Croatian (perhaps not tonight), greet them with one kiss on each cheek. If you go for a third, they will most likely even it up with a fourth and you may risk creating a never-ending loop.
     
  • Not only do Croatians use the same word, "bog", for greetings and goodbyes, it's home to some of the oddest phrases around, including the apparently common "my axe has fallen into my honey". This is a metaphor for something good happening to you unexpectedly, obviously.
     
  • Its beautiful natural parks make up around 10 per cent of Croatia... But try not to fall asleep because if you start snoring, it could land you a £100 fine, according to local site RTL.
     
  • With a population of just 20, Hum Istria, on the western coast, is the smallest town in the world... Though somehow it has a post office, souvenir store, wine shop and museum in the main square.
     
  • The Roman amphitheatre in Pula, built in around 68AD, is the sixth largest in the world and still used for concerts and events to this day.
     
  • Hvar, the super-yacht capital of Croatia on the Dalmation coast, is the sunniest island in Europe with more than 2,800 hours every year.
     
  • On October 18 every year, Croatia celebrates International Necktie Day to celebrate creating the accessory. Impressively, it was the Parisians who copied them.
     
  • The island of Susak is home to the raciest national folk costume in the world (contain yourselves), being the only one that stops above the knee.
     

Food

Inspired by Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, Croatia is a paradise seafood and pasta lovers, but its gastronomic centre-piece is the janjeca glava, an entire lamb's head.

It's a bargain at just £1 and you can order the meat in a stew with potato and vegetables if you the thought of cooked eyeballs fills you with dread.

And it's truly a country for wine lovers, producing more than 140million litres of the stuff every year.

It also consistently ranks in the top 20 of alcohol consumers per capita in the world

 

Politics

Croatia's glamorous president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has been the surprise hit of this World Cup.

She became an internet sensation when she was filmed celebrating with her team's half-naked footballers after their quarter-final victory over Russia.

The poised leader, 50, is often mistaken for Ice T's model girlfriend Coco Austin and even a porn star we haven't been able to identify.

Only last year, the real Kolinda was pictured getting a little up close and personal with US President Donald Trump.

History

Croatia has been occupied by many different conquerors including the Romans, Slavs and temporarily Nazi Germany.

Like many Western European nations, it was founded on the ruins of the Roman Empire.

For this reason Croatia is unique - not just for its crystal clear blue waters - but also for a thousand years of different cultures.

The Croats are believed to be purely Slavic people who migrated from Ukraine and settled in present-day Croatia during the 6th Century.

It is bounded by Slovenia in the northwest, by Hungary in the northeast, by Serbia and Montenegro in the east, by Bosnia and Herzegovina in the south, and by the Adriatic Sea in the west.

The Adriatic Sea is not only a deep gulf in the Mediterranean, it is also known as the cradle of ancient civilisation.

 

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