EURO 2016

Modric strike hands Croatia winning start against Turkey

The Real Madrid midfielder hit a first-half volley as Croatia beat Turkey in the first Group D match at the European Championship.

Modric strike hands Croatia winning start against Turkey
ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH EFE

Croatia needed a touch of Luka Modric magic to beat Turkey 1-0 in their Euro 2016 Group D opener on Sunday, gaining a measure of revenge after their bitter quarter-final elimination by the same opponents at Euro 2008.

Inspirational playmaker Modric put Croatia in front with a fine volley from 25 metres that bounced in front of diving Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Babacan shortly before halftime of a tense affair at Parc des Princes.

The Real Madrid midfielder, who missed the opening penalty for Croatia in the 2008 shootout, made amends with an impressive display, organising his side with calm authority.

A cloud of smoke after the goal suggested flares had been launched from a section of the stadium packed with Croatia fans. A smoke bomb was later thrown in behind the Croatia goal. No other incidents were reported in a game under tight scrutiny after the ugly scenes that marred Saturday's match between England and Russia in Marseille.

Technically the better side, the Croatians, who had one foot in the last four eight years ago until they fell to Turkey on penalties, kept alive their hopes of surviving a tough group also featuring holders Spain and the Czech Republic, who face each other in Toulouse on Monday.

Turkey, who had failed to qualify for a major tournament since their impressive Euro 2008 campaign, now face a struggle to reach the knockout stages.

Turkey looked nervous in the opening stages and Croatia dictated the pace, with Modric, named man of the match, and Ivan Rakitic pulling the strings in midfield.

The game was lively but with no clear chance for either side until Croatia midfielder Milan Badelj offered the first shot on target with a volley from 20 metres that failed to surprise Babacan.

Seconds later, Turkey threatened for the first time with a header by Ozan Tufan from a fine Gokhan Gonul cross.

The game became scrappy with quite a few fouls, notably from Turkey, and Croatia defender Vedran Corluka had to play most of the match with a bandaged, bleeding head after being elbowed by striker Cenk Tosun while fighting for a high ball.

Croatia looked in command after the break and created a few opportunities, notably when captain Darijo Srna rattled the crossbar from a free kick after Rakitic was brought down outside the box.

Playing a major tournament in France brings back sweet memories for Croatia, who lost in the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup to host nation France before beating the Netherlands to finish third.