Euro 2016

Midfield maestro Modric's magic seals payback victory

Croatia's Luka Modric (No. 10) celebrating his first-half wonder strike against Turkey with Ivan Perisic.
Croatia's Luka Modric (No. 10) celebrating his first-half wonder strike against Turkey with Ivan Perisic.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES
Croatia supporters seizing the day for photograph opportunities with French riot police, in a marked contrast to fan violence that marred the England-Russia game.
Croatia supporters seizing the day for photograph opportunities with French riot police, in a marked contrast to fan violence that marred the England-Russia game.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GROUP D

Croatia 1

Turkey 0

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

The inspirational playmaker put Croatia in front with a fine volley from 25 metres that bounced in front of diving Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Babacan shortly before half-time of a tense affair at the Parc des Princes.

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

"Luka really deserves to be talked about," said Croatia's coach Ante Cacic. "It was one of his best matches in Croatia's history.

"He played really well. He was our leader. He scored a magical goal. We need Luka in this form. The team look better and more aggressive when he plays like that."

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 kept alive their hopes of surviving a group also featuring Spain and the Czech Republic.

"We are definitely in the hardest group, with Spain, so it is a perfect start to get three points," said midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

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.

They looked nervous in the opening stages and Croatia dictated the pace, with Modric, named Man of the Match, and Rakitic pulling the strings in midfield.

The two teams' determination to play through the middle made for a narrow, niggly encounter.

It soon became a scrappy affair disrupted by fouls and Croatia defender Vedran Corluka had to play most of the match with a bandaged, bleeding head after being elbowed by striker Cenk Tosun.

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.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2016, with the headline 'Midfield maestro Modric's magic seals payback victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe