PARIS: Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric scored a brilliant volley as Croatia defeated Turkey 1-0 in their Euro 2016 Group D on Sunday.
Ante Cacic’s Croatia dominated throughout, twice hitting the bar in the second half. But it only Modric’s 41st-minute strike — his 11th international goal — that separated the teams at the final whistle.
Victory gave Croatia revenge for their elimination on penalties by Turkey in the quarter-finals at Euro 2008, although they had previously beaten them in a qualifying play-off prior to Euro 2012.
Fatih Terim’s Turkey now have it all to do ahead of their meeting with defending champions Spain in Nice on Friday. Croatia can already go into their game against the Czech Republic with one eye on the last 16.
The talent in both line-ups had raised hopes of an open contest and it took Croatia less than two minutes to threaten. Ivan Rakitic flung himself at Darijo Srna’s cross and hooked a volley across goal.
But the two teams’ determination to play through the middle of the pitch made for a narrow, niggly encounter at the Parc des Princes home of French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
When Croatia did procure sights of goal, their efforts went either too close to Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Babacan or too far from the target.
Turkey’s only opportunity of note in the first half saw Ozan Tufan meet Gokhan Gonul’s right-wing cross with a downward header that was awkwardly fielded by Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.
Modric illuminated the game with his deft flicks and surefooted touches, and with half-time approaching he provided the breakthrough.
Selcuk Inan appeared to have cleared the danger by hooking the ball high to the edge of the Turkey box, but Modric watched it drop before spearing an emphatic, dipping volley past Babacan from 25 yards.
The replays did not make kind viewing for Babacan. There was embarrassment, too, for the tournament organisers as a fan ran on the pitch to embrace Modric and flares were let off in the Croatia end.
Turkey coach Terim made a change at half-time, sending on Volkan Sen for Oguzhan Ozyakup and moving captain Arda Turan infield to a number 10 position in a 4-2-3-1 system.
But Croatia continued to boss proceedings and Srna twice went close, first clipping the crossbar with a free-kick and then lashing wide left-footed after Babacan could only parry Ivan Perisic’s cross.
Marcelo Brozovic also threatened twice, volleying narrowly over and then just failing to make telling contact with a devilish cross from the hard-working Perisic, who later struck the bar with a glancing header.
The introduction of 18-year-old Emre Mor, the Denmark-born forward dubbed ‘The Turkish Messi’, drew roars of approval from Turkey’s fans.
Yet it was Croatia who came closest to scoring in the closing stages as Babacan tipped a header from Brozovic over the bar and then rushed out to thwart Perisic.