If Croatia who has less than 4.3 million people in the population can make the world cup final, it shows that anything is possible for the smaller nations such as Ireland. At the start of the tournament, you could get unbelievable odds on Croatia reaching the final with popular betting sites such as MaxFreeBets and they came close to achieving the miracle. There are 500,000 more people to choose from in the Republic of Ireland compare with Croatia along with a much longer history in the world’s largest sport.
One of the biggest surprises about the achievement of Croatia reaching the world cup is that they did not play their first match until 1992. If the Republic of Ireland football association can follow the lead of the Croatian they should be able to achieve it far faster due to the rich history of football in the country along with already existing infrastructure.
The main factor that has resulted in the recent success of Croatia is the fact that the national league produces top-class talent through the development of youth. The young players are given a chance to learn and grow as a player by was given the opportunity to play in the Croatian league. This is not happening in Ireland as clubs are not bringing through enough young players through their youth academies to play in the first team at a young age so they can get the experience required to reach the next level.
The inclusion of young players brought through youth academies in Croatia playing in the first team for the nation’s top league has been an unbelievable success. Players such as Luka Modric began his footballing life in the native league and was the best player at the World Cup this summer. Others have managed to play for the world’s top clubs including Juventus, Real Madrid, Liverpool and AS Milan.
Just two players that played the semi-final against England have never played in their native league which were Ivan Perišić and Ivan Rakitić. One of the problems in Ireland is obsessed with sending young players to English clubs rather than offering them an opportunity to play first-team football in the national league. Instead, they are not getting any game time at the top clubs so are therefore not been allowed to fulfill their full potential.
There are two prime examples why this mindset of sending youth players to England rather than giving them opportunities by bringing them through the youth academies themselves are Seamus Coleman and James McClean. Both have been top performers for the Republic of Ireland and have even both captained the team. They did not get shipped out to England but were instead brought through the youth academies.
Croatia have the blueprint of how to become successful on the football international stage and Ireland have to follow it or they will never reach the heights of making a world cup final. If youth is given a chance to shine in their own national leagues it is proven to work which is why this needs to be implemented in order for the team to reach the next level.