Croatia have sealed a victory over Turkey in Paris by virtue of a long-range volley from Luka Modric minutes before half-time. It was a goal which rivalled Dimitri Payet’s opening night winner in quality, and it proved decisive as Ante Cacic’s men claimed a deserved 1-0 win over the Turks, who never really looked like challenging. The game started slowly, but it sputtered into life after an uneventful first 20 minutes. Croatia began to take control shortly after, and while Ozan Tufan should have put the Turkish in front with a close-range header the chances were generally going the way of the Croats. Even still, there was not much life in the game and it looked as though the sides would be level at the break. Then Modric made his great contribution. The effort was, to put it mildly, ambitious. The ball had been cleared after a corner, and it had travelled well past the Turkish penalty area. Modric judged it to perfection, and from a very long way out he volleyed. The effort went over the mass of bodies crowded inside the box, and Turkish keeper Volkan Babacan could not stop it as it went into the bottom corner. Modric was as surprised as anyone to see the ball find the back of the net from what was less than a half-chance, but it didn’t really matter.
The second half began with much more energy, and Turkey appeared to start the second period on top. It didn’t take long for Croatia to find their rhythm again, and Darijo Srna nearly managed to score when his free kick from close range hit the crossbar. Srna was at it again a couple of minutes later, with Ivan Perisic creating a golden opportunity for his captain. Perisic’s cross was deflected to Srna by Babacan, and had the attempt been on target the Turkish goalkeeper would have been caught out of position. Turkey pushed hard to get the equaliser, but it was Croatia who looked much more likely to score as the game progressed. Marcelo Brozovic’s volley was just over the bar, and had Brozovic been able to get his boot to a dangerous ball from Perisic he would have doubled his side’s lead. Perisic continued to look dangerous, and he hit the bar with a headed effort after a good cross from Mario Mandzukic. The Turkish fought all the way to the final whistle, but Croatia were much stronger and never looked like giving up their lead. The win will give Croatia great confidence in both attack and defence, and they look like a side who could go a very long way in this competition. The loss will definitely raise some questions for Turkey, who lacked energy and any kind of presence up front throughout. They have some problems, and they need to be solved quickly.
Paris – Parc des Princes
Croatia 1 (Modric 41)
Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Swe)
Turkey (4-3-3): Babacan – Gokhan Gonul, Mehmet Topal, Hakan Balta, Caner Erkin; Ozan Tufan, Selcuk Inan, Ozyakup (Volkan Sen 46); Calhanoglu, Cenk Tosun (Mor 69), Arda Turan (Burak Yilmaz 65).
Croatia (4-2-3-1): Subasic – Srna, Corluka, Vida, Strinic; Modric, Badelj; Brozovic, Rakitic (Schildenfeld 89), Perisic (Kramaric 87); Mandzukic (Pjaca 90+3).
1. Ivan Perisic (Croatia)
Perisic sprung to life in the second half, making destructive runs down the left wing and causing massive problems for Turkish right back Gokhan Gonul. He created opportunity after opportunity, and as it stood he was unlucky to end the game without a goal or an assist. He showed incredible skill on the wing, and he was the most dangerous player on the ground.
2. Darijo Srna (Croatia)
Srna’s work as an attacking right back was invaluable for Croatia, and his crosses created plenty of chances for the forwards. He could have scored twice in the second half, and he was dominant throughout the game. He created plenty of trouble for Turkey, and if he can keep up his form for the rest of the tournament Croatia will be hard to beat.
3. Volkan Sen (Turkey)
Sen only played half the game, but he provided an energy to the Turkish that was lacking in the first half. He created a very good chance almost immediately after he entered the game, and he added an enthusiasm that hadn’t been there before his entry. There were some disciplinary issues, and he was booked late, but he played a good game.
4. Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia)
Brozovic was everywhere in the first half, and while he fell off slightly during the second period he was still one of the best players on the ground. He was lively throughout, and his work drifting in from the right wing caused plenty of problems for the Turkish defence. He had a few great chances over the course of the game, and his work in the air was excellent.
5. Luka Modric (Croatia)
Modric’s biggest moment was the goal, but he was also very strong throughout and provided experience and solidity in the centre of midfield. His long-range strike was one of extraordinary quality, and he even filled in at the heart of defence when Vedran Corluka was receiving treatment for a head cut. He played well, and should get better as the tournament goes on.