Croatia wonders who is selling 'cherished' 1998 World Cup medal

Croatia was abuzz on Tuesday with speculation over the identity of an unnamed World Cup bronze medal winner from 1998 who was auctioning the precious memento.

Croatia's third place 20 years ago was the country's historic first success as an independent football nation, although they went one step better last July by reaching the final before losing to France.

"There were only 30 copies of this medal. Absolutely rare, extra fine," says the description of the item at The Saleroom auction web portal.

Auctioneer Agon Sports World estimated the price at 7,500 euros ($8,570) and the auction is set for December 7 and 8.

"I don't believe that some of my players would put it on sale since they are all well-off," the team's 1998 coach Miroslav 'Ciro' Blazevic said.

"Maybe it was stolen," the 83-year-old told the Vecernji List daily paper. "It will certainly not stay anonymous, such things are always revealed," he added.

Contacted by AFP, the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) stressed "all medals are in the private ownership of individuals who can do with them what they deem adequate".

The HNS refused to speculate on the authenticity of the medal.

"We have not seen it, nor has someone given it to us for assessment," it said in a statement.

According to the federation there were still 29 medals in Croatia.

HNS official Zorislav Srebric told local media he could not "believe that someone would give up something with such an extraordinary, notably emotional, value".

"Someone is in a deep trouble when they are selling the medal," Croatian team doctor Boris Nemec said, vowing he would not sell his "for anything".

But for former international Mario Stanic, "it is very individual, like everything in life".

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