The Croatia national football team represents Croatia in international football. The team is controlled by the Croatian Football Federation, the governing body for football in the country. A FIFA-recognized national side had previously represented the short-lived Banovina of Croatia and Independent State of Croatia in nineteen friendly matches between 1940 and 1944. This team was dissolved in 1945 as Croatia became a constituent federal republic of SFR Yugoslavia. In the period between 1945 and 1990, Croatia did not field a separate team for competitive matches and Croatian players played for the Yugoslavia national football team.
The modern Croatian team was formed in 1990, shortly before Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia, and by 1993 had gained membership in FIFA and UEFA. The team played their first competitive matches in the successful qualifying campaign for UEFA Euro 1996, leading to their first appearance at a major tournament. In Croatia's FIFA World Cup debut in 1998 the team finished third and provided the tournament's top scorer, Davor Šuker. Since becoming eligible to compete in international tournaments, Croatia have missed only one World Cup and one European Championship.
Most home matches are played at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, with some fixtures also taking place at the Poljud Stadium in Split or at other, smaller venues, such as Stadion Kantrida in Rijeka or Stadion Gradski vrt in Osijek, depending on the nature of the match. The team was undefeated in its first 36 home competitive matches at Maksimir, the run ending with a 2008 defeat to England.
The team was named FIFA's "Best Mover of the Year" in 1994 and 1998, the only team to win the award more than once. On admission to FIFA, Croatia was ranked 125th in the world; following the 1998 World Cup campaign, the side ranked third, making it the most volatile team in FIFA Rankings history.
Football was introduced to Croatia by English expatriates in Rijeka and Županja in 1873; the official rulebook was recognized in 1896. By 1907 local clubs had been established in Croatia and a modern edition of the sport's laws was published. FIFA records document a Croatian national team playing a full-length fixture against domestic opposition in 1907. Before the nation's independence, Croatian footballers played for the national teams of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1919–39) and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1945–90), though during periods of political upheaval, ethnically Croatian sides sometimes formed to play unofficial matches. A hastily-arranged national side, managed by Hugo Kinert, played a few private domestic matches in 1918–19.under the direction of Rudolf Hitrec, played fifteen friendly matches, fourteen as an official FIFA member. Croatia's first recorded result as a FIFA associate was a 1–1 tie with Slovakia on September 8 in Bratislava. Further matches were played until 1945 when the Independent State of Croatia was abolished and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia assumed control, thereby ending the team's affiliation with FIFA.
From 1950 to 1956 another unofficial Croatian team was briefly active; it won games against Indonesia and a Yugoslav team playing as "Serbia". The Yugoslavia squad at the 1956 Summer Olympics included Croatian footballers, as did Yugoslavia in World Cup and European Championship tournaments up to 1990.