Turkey face Croatia as Euro 2016 Group D gets underway at the Parc des Princes this afternoon. Both sides arrive at the tournament in good form and will be looking to make a winning start in Paris to boost their chances of reaching the knockout stages.
Croatia are unbeaten since last September and hit double figures in last Saturday’s 10-0 demolition of minnows San Marino.
A late surge saw Turkey win four of their final five qualifying games to secure third spot and book a place in a major tournament for the first time in eight years.
Both sides are likely to go with one striker, meaning this game could well be settled in the middle of the park.
Croatia can boast the inclusion of experienced La Liga duo Luka Modric (Real Madrid) and Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), who have both shone on the international stage in the past decade.
Rakitic, 28, said: “It is true that we have a lot of years together. I was talking to Luka and saying that it was time to do something serious. This Euros will be the best quality in recent years. We will do our best. We believe in our team, we have a nice mix of old and young players in big clubs.”
Turkey defeated Croatia on penalties in the quarter-final in Euro 2008 before eventually going down 3-2 to Germany in the semis. They were managed back then by Fatih Terim, who returned to the national hotseat for a second spell in 2013 and is determined to repeat his previous success in France.
Terim told uefa.com: “Expectations are always high when it comes to me, but I’m used to it and have almost always lived up to them. You need to take these tournaments step by step. First, let’s get out of this group if we can. Then, after surviving a group with Spain, Czech Republic and Croatia, I feel Turkey should climb much higher.”
Terim’s big selection dilemma is whether to go with Cenk Tosun or Burak Yilmaz up front in a one-man attack. Mario Mandzukic of Juventus is likely to lead Croatia’s front line.
Both sides arrive in France at full strength so neither manager has any injury headaches.
This is Turkey and Croatia’s third encounter at the European Championships. Croatia won 1-0 in the Euro 1996 group stages whilst Turkey won on penalties in the quarter-finals at Euro 2008 (1-1, 3-1 on pens).
Turkey have won none of their six games against Croatia (D4 L2). They knocked them out in the Euro 2008 quarter-finals but that was after a penalty shoot-out.
Turkey are appearing in their fourth Euro, with those four qualifications coming in the last six tournaments. They had failed to qualify for any of the previous nine European Championships.
Turkey have improved on their position each year they have qualified for the European Championships. They were knocked out in the group stages in 1996 before reaching the quarter-finals in 2000 and the semis in 2008.
This is Croatia’s fifth appearance at the European Championships. They have failed to qualify for the tournament just once in their history (2000).
In their four previous appearances Croatia have reached the quarter-finals twice; however they finished third in the group stage four years ago.
EURO 2016 RESULTS & FIXTURES
Switzerland 1-0 Albania
Wales 2-1 Slovakia
Turkey v Croatia 2pm
v N/Ireland 5pm
Germany v Ukraine 8pm