Croatia, Turkey agree their first Euro match could be decisive

Croatia and Turkey meet Sunday at Euro 2016, with both sides seeking victory in a game which could already determine who reaches the knock-out stages.

The two sides are pitted in Group D which also features two-time reigning champions Spain and the Czech Republic. Spain are rated favourites but second place appears wide open - and third could also be good enough for a last-16 berth.

"Our team is ready and our appetite is big," Croatia coach Ante Cacic told a news conference at the Parc des princes stadium Saturday. "The first match is very important. With all respect for Turkey, we have to do a good result."

Turkey midfield star Hakan Calhanoglu was as upbeat, even saying that "this group is totally open. It is a very decisive game, we will just focus on tomorrow. We will do our best to take the three points."

Neither side wanted to talk about revenge - with Turkey beating Croatia on penalties in the 2008 quarter-finals, and Croatia beating Turkey in the play-offs for Euro 2012.

But both have big ambitions in France and full of confidence, with Turkey losing just once in their last 16 games, and Croatia coming off their biggest win ever, 10-0 over minnows San Marino.

Croatia have an abundance of talent with the likes of veteran captain Darijo Srna, Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic or Luka Modric of Real Madrid but they are yet to really deliver on the big stage in a similar way as the class of 1998 which finished third at the World Cup, also in France.

"I hope we can stay in France as long as possible," Srna said.

"I think we have one of the best teams in Croatian history but it means nothing. If you are psychologically strong and focused we can beat any one. But if we are not we won't. We have to take it step by step,"

Turkey also have a healthy mixture with stars like Bayer Leverkusen's Calhanoglu and Barcelona's Arda Turan, plus a super talent in 18-year-old Emre Mor who has transferred from Demark's Nordsjaelland to German club Borussia Dortmund.

"He (Mor) is not an ordinary player but an extraordinary player. We made a good decision by calling him up. I insist he has to learn many things and has to improve physically. He has the potential to be a great footballer," Turkey coach Fatih Terim said.

Terim named Turan his most important player even though he doesn't get regular playing time, and although he wants the third-place finishers from the 2002 World Cup to advance from the group he has another priority overall.

"My criteria of success is to be in these tournaments all the time. This is the biggest achievement, to be in the Euros and World Cup on a constant basis. Knock-outs are important but most important is if we are qualified," Terim said.

Last update: Sat, 11/06/2016 - 21:08
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