Bloodied Corluka a different kind of inspiration for Croatia

Croatia prepare for their second Euro 2016 match against the Czech Republic on Friday with a new source of inspiration

The 30-year-old centre back battled bravely throughout his side's opening 1-0 win over Turkey in Group D with blood pouring from a wound caused by a clash of heads.

Fans responded to his courage by posting pictures of themselves on social media with their heads bandaged - though thankfully without blood.

"We can have a bad game but we can't have a game without a fight," Corluka said and he is confident that a few stitches will not rule him out of the Czech Republic clash in St Etienne.

Another victory for Croatia would guarantee early progression to the knockout stages and signal the start of another march through France - 18 years after they claimed third place at the World Cup held in the country.

"They are the inspiration," Corluka said of the 1998 generation. "If you read Croatian newspapers they always say we need to do something so we can forget about them but that team was so good."

"We were talking with them before the tournament," Corluka said. "They said nice words, they encouraged us to do big things. It was nice to see them and to speak with them and to know they have our back."

Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic leads the attacking line but it is the midfield combination of Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic and Real Madrid's Luka Modric which makes the team purr.

Modric sparked the win over Turkey, netting the only goal with a magnificent volley, and Corluka was in no doubt as to his importance to the team.

"When you play with him, he’s just ridiculous," Corluka said. "Even against Turkey he’s working so much for the team – in attack and defensively. He’s one of the best midfielders in Europe.”

Croatia also expect to have captain Darijo Srna available after the 34-year-old left the team camp during the week to attend his father's funeral.

The Czech Republic had a different experience in their opening match as a brave and battling performance of their own went unrewarded against defending champions Spain. A Gerard Pique goal a few minutes from time left them empty-handed despite a positive performance.

“Of course we are disappointed because we held off the favourites for 86 minutes," goalkeeper Petr Cech said. "Even though we were under intense pressure and even created some chances, the score was still tied and the point was within reach, which would have been great against such a team.

"We played an excellent game and we helped each other, but unfortunately we didn’t get the result.”

They will now look to regroup against Croatia to set up a potentially decisive conclusion with Turkey on Tuesday.

"I hope that we can collect four points," coach Pavel Vrba said. "I don't think that we will have to defend as much against the other teams in the group."

Last update: Wed, 15/06/2016 - 10:35
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