Talent and tension as Croatia meet Turkey

Talent and tension as Croatia meet Turkey
Luka Modric will be the key player for Croatia.


Published: Sat 11 Jun 2016, 10:17 PM

Last updated: Sun 12 Jun 2016, 12:23 AM

The twinkle-toed talents of Luka Modric's Croatia and Turkey led by Arda Turan resume their European Championship rivalry on Sunday with both sides mindful of contests past.
The teams met at Euro 96 in England, Croatia winning 1-0 late on, and in qualifying for Euro 2012, when the Croats again prevailed. But it is their encounter at Euro 2008 that rekindles the strongest emotions. A classy Croatian team took the lead through Ivan Klasnic in the penultimate minute of extra time in their quarter-final in Vienna, only for Semih Senturk to equalise in the second minute of stoppage time before the Turks won on penalties.
"We should not think about what happened at Euro 2008 in Austria. This is a new match, everything is different," said Croatia's Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic. "We should think about our qualities much more than those of our opponents. I like that our coach thinks that way. "We have to focus on what can we do - not what our opponents can do - because we are really good and have great players."
Croatia's coach, Ante Cacic, took over from Niko Kovac last September following a stumble in the qualifying campaign.
His squad, characteristically, is blessed with exceptional quality in the middle of the pitch, where Real Madrid maestro Modric and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic pull the strings in a Spanish-accented midfield. Cacic is expected to deploy Fiorentina's Milan Badelj alongside Modric as one of the holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation. , affording the former Tottenham Hotspur schemer more freedom to get forward.
Croatia lost only once in qualifying, away to Norway, and twice drew with Italy, but with defending champions Spain and the Czech Republic also awaiting them in Group D, they can ill afford a slow start at the Parc des Princes if they are to advance to the last 16.
Turkey's qualifying campaign, in contrast, was a rollercoaster, as opening defeats against Iceland and the Netherlands, plus a draw against Latvia, left them with a mountain to climb.
But they produced a stunning flourish, beating The Netherlands 3-0, winning 2-0 away to the Czech Republic and then edging Iceland courtesy of a 89th-minute Selcuk Inan free-kick to qualify as the best third-place team.
It was a fightback that recalled their crowd-pleasing exploits at Euro 2008, when aside from eliminating Croatia, they also came from behind to beat both Switzerland and the Czech Republic in the group phase and narrowly lost 3-2 to Germany in a gripping last-four tie.
Coach Fatih Terim, now in his third stint at the helm, saw his side go 13 games unbeaten prior to last month's 2-1 friendly defeat by England and in players like Barcelona's Arda Turan and Hakan Calhanoglu of Bayer Leverkusen, he possesses plenty of attacking quality.
"In this type of tournament, the start is very important," said Terim.
"If we beat Croatia, we will get a very big morale boost and get a very important advantage in trying to get out of the group.
"I am happy with how everything is going. It's going very well. We want to show our strengths in the Croatia match. Let's start well and bring good news to our country from France."

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