Luka Modric scored with a stunning volley shortly before half-time as Croatia beat Turkey 1-0 at Euro 2016 on Sunday in a match rated crucial for progression from Group D.
Man-of-the-match Modric found the net from some 25 metres out in the 41st minute, with Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Babacan not looking good although the ball was well-placed into the bottom right corner.
Croatia captain Darijo Srna and Ivan Perisic were denied by the bar as Croatia should have increased the lead, while Turkey's only notable chance was a first-half header from Cenk Tosun.
The victory in front of a 43,842-strong and noisy crowd at the Parc des Princes will give Croatia confidence and puts them in a good position for the next games against the Czech Republic on June 17 and title holders Spain on June 21.
Spain are considered group favourites, and the winner of Sunday's match rated the top contender for second place. Spain start Monday against the Czechs.
But Modric insisted this was "only the first step" and coach Ante Cacic said "I am more afraid of the Czech Republic than Turkey."
However there was huge satisfaction overall in the Croatia camp which also saw defender Vedran Corluka play on despite a head injury which required treatment several times.
"We are really confident from the first to the last player and showed this on the pitch today. We had lots of possession. We played like a big team and I think we are a big team," Modric said.
Cacic said that the Real Madrid star Modric had played a key role in what he said was one of his best national team showings.
"He was really our leader and scored this magical goal. Luka in this form makes the team look better and more aggressive," Cacic said.
Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic had an early chance at the far left post but soon the two high-class midfield rows neutralised each other and chances became sparse in the drizzle.
Turkey had the first major chance in the 29th when Gokhan Gonul's floating cross into the area was met by the unmarked Tosun who however headed into the arms of Danijel Subasic.
Then came Modric's big moment.
Selcuk Inan cleared high out of the Turkish penalty area, and Real Madrid's Modric volleyed into the bottom left corner from some 25m, a well-placed effort which also took a bounce but still should have been kept out by Babacan.
It was the latest blunder by a goalkeeper at the tournament after Romania's Ciprian Tatarusanu, Matus Kocacik of Slovakia and Albania's Etrit Berisha had also made mistakes in recent days which led to goals.
Croatia then dominated after the break against a fading opponent who failed to threaten again against a firm Croatia defence.
Srna hit the top of the bar with a free-kick in the 52nd and Perisic was later also denied by the bar in just two of almost half a dozen chances.
Not even the introduction of super talent Emre Mor helped the Turks as coach Fatih Terim lamented defeat in yet another Euro opener.
"Unfortunately we never start well into these big tournaments. I am upset but we will learn our lessons," Terim said. "I didn't expect us to drop so much in the second half."
Sunday, June 12, 2016 - 19:40
Saturday, June 11, 2016 - 16:54