Can Croatia challenge Norway for the 2018 Per Capita Cup?

Croatia celebrates scoring a goal at the Russia 2018 Football World Cup

The question may surprise readers looking at the current Per Capita Cup ranking, the ranking of the world’s sportiest nations. While Norway is firmly in the lead, needing only 3,770 of its hardy citizens to score one GSN point, Croatia isn’t even listed among the 37 countries in the Per Capita Cup table.

The reason why Croatia, currently a best-ever 15th in the Global Cup with 753 points, isn’t ranked in the Per Capita Cup is that this year it hasn’t yet reached the required minimum of ten top-8 placements in GSN-tracked tournaments.

But Croatia isn’t far from that minimum requirement, having earned its 753 points through seven top-8 finishes – 640 of those points as runner up in the FIFA Football World Cup, another best-ever result. Croatia has a population of 4,154,213 inhabitants, over 1 million fewer than Norway’s, and reaching the Per Capita threshold would make it a very strong contender for the Per Capita Cup’s top three places.

It’s very likely that Croatia will reach the threshold between now and the end of the year: in the months of September to December 2017, Croatia scored a total of 138 points through ten top-8 finishes: it won gold in the men’s Horizontal Bar at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, and scored points at the Shooting World Cup, the Archery World Cup, in Tennis and Rowing.

Croatia could score in all of these sports again before the end of the current year, except Rowing, and on last year’s form alone it could reach a total of 891 points. Given its population, it means finishing the year at 4,659 citizens per point. It would be enough, as things stand, to put Croatia comfortably in second place in the Per Capita Cup, with a sizeable margin over Switzerland and only 889 inhabitants behind Norway’s current tally.

In September to December last year, Norway scored 296 points, but 192 of those came from its second place in the Women’s Handball World Championships, which isn’t scheduled this year. Adding another 104 points to this year’s tally means Norway could finish the year on 1,504 points, equivalent to 3,509 citizens per point.

Neither Norway nor Croatia will be competing in the big team-sport tournaments scheduled in the autumn, the women’s Basketball World Championships and the men’s and women’s Volleyball World Championships.

This means that it’s highly unlikely that Croatia will be able to challenge Norway for the top Per Capita Cup spot: to do so it would have to reach, as things stand now and assuming Norway reaches 3,509 citizens per point, a total GSN score for the year of 1,183 points, i.e. 32% more than the estimated 891 points.

On the other hand, it is extremely likely that Croatia will finish the year at around 4,600 citizens per point, enough to ward off a late surge by Switzerland or Sweden, currently second and third in the Per Capita Cup table, and secure a historic result as the world’s second sportiest nation in 2018.