‘We are small but we are strong’: Croatian-Australians hoping for World Cup fairytale
It has been 20 years since Aljosa Asanovic was part of the Croatian team that finished third at the World Cup, and the now coach of the Melbourne Knights Football Club is confident his country can take home the top prize.
"In football everything is possible. Our players will give 100 per cent to be on top of the world," the former midfielder said.
"We are small but we are so strong."
Asanovic played in the country's first World Cup team in 1998 which finished third after losing the semi-final to France.
Croatia will again take on Les Bleus in the deciding match at this year's tournament at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on Monday morning (AEST).
"It means everything," Asanovic said.
"I come from a small country, really small country, but the country with big heart and such loved players, big players, talented players.
"I'd be so happy and so proud if we would be champion of the world."
The Melbourne Knights Football Club, originally known as Croatia SC, was founded in the city's western suburbs by Croatian migrants during the 1950s.
It was a powerhouse in the National Soccer League — the competition that preceded the A-League — during the 1990s, and now competes in the second-tier National Premier Leagues Victoria.
A number of players who spent time at the club have also represented Australia on the world stage, including Mark Viduka.
The team's fans who were watching the club take on Heidelberg, and members of Melbourne's Croatian community, were as optimistic as the coach about Croatia's chances.
President of the Croatia Soccer Association of Australia George Dragovic said there would be a big turnout of fans at the Melbourne Knight's clubrooms to watch the match.
"I feel a huge sense of pride first and foremost, he said.
"A huge amount of joy as well for people such as my parents who came 40, 50 years ago to this country, and also for the people that are born in Croatia that may have lost loved ones in the homeland war."
Fans feeling sick with excitement
Asanovic was tossing up whether to buy a last-minute ticket to Moscow for the match.
He recalled the feeling of playing in the World Cup team 20 years ago.
"When we talk about our Croatian national team, I feel so proud, this is my country I played almost 15 years for my national team," he said.
"Really I want to be there to feel again the atmosphere because sometimes I miss … the big level of football.
"We have the big chance to be in the top of the world. A really big chance."
Melbourne Knights vice president Tony Vujic said he was feeling mixed emotions ahead of the match.
"I feel ill, but at the same time very excited," he said.
"The expectation to wait for Sunday evening, I can't describe it."