Croatia become the 13th country to play in a World Cup final tomorrow. (Germany and West Germany being the same thing in the eyes of Fifa.) They’ll be the fourth to feature in just one, after Sweden, England and Spain. And they’ll be the second smallest nation to contest football’s biggest match: Uruguay’s population was only a smidgen over two million in 1930 and 1950. Anyway, who doesn’t love a list? So here we go. World Cup final appearances (and yes, yes, it was a final pool in 1950, but you know how that effectively panned out):

8: Germany (1954, 1966, 1974, 1982, 1986, 1990, 2002, 2014)
7: Brazil (1950, 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 1998, 2002)
6: Italy (1934, 1938, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006)
5: Argentina (1930, 1978, 1986, 1990, 2014)
3: France (1998, 2006, 2018)
3: Netherlands (1974, 1978, 2010)
2: Uruguay (1930, 1950)
2: Hungary (1938, 1954)
2: Czechoslovakia (1934, 1962)
1: England (1966)
1: Spain (2010)
1: Sweden (1958)
1: Croatia (2018)


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The bronze curse. “Is Gareth Southgate aware of the third-placed-team curse when it comes to qualifying for the next European Championship?” wonders Admir Pajic. “Italy 1990, Sweden 1994, Croatia 1998, Turkey 2002 and Holland 2014 have all missed the next Euro after winning the bronze medal at the World Cup. Of course, Germany have been immune on that one – they qualified for Euro 2008 and 2012 respectively despite finishing third at the World Cup. So, if you see Kyle Walker acting like he is not a natural central defender when he faces Romelu Lukaku today, remember it might be a part of the tactics!”

That’s interesting … very interesting, as the great Barry Davies might say. And a quick look back further only serves to reinforce your point, Admir. France came third in 1986, and didn’t make Euro 88, while Poland finished third in 1982, but failed to reach Euro 84. Before that? Brazil were the third-placed team in 1978, and it would be pretty harsh to criticise them for not competing at Euro 80. Before that, the Euro finals were a four-team affair, so it’s probably not quite as relevant. Memo to Gareth and Bobby M: beware that bronze medal!

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Read More World Cup 2018: News and buildup before England battle Belgium for bronze – live!

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