Croatia have fond memories, and a score to settle

Croatia will have some good memories of the past but also a score to settle when they face Turkey in the two sides' opening match at Euro 2016.

Neither team can afford to lose in Paris' Parc des Princes stadium as their tricky Group D also consists of reigning champions Spain and the Czech Republic.

Croatia played their first ever match at a Euro against Turkey, beating them 1-0 on June 11, 1996, in England.

They also beat the Turks in a play-off for Euro 2012, where they went out in the group stage.

But four years earlier they suffered a painful defeats against them, 3-1 on penalties in the quarter-finals. Croatia appeared to have won when Ivan Klasnic put them 1-0 ahead in the 118th but Semih Senturk grabbed an equalizer deep into stoppage time to set up the shoot-out.

Croatia's Ivan Rakitic named that loss "the most difficult moment in my career ... I don't want to experience something like that again."

Now the two sides meet again in France where Croatia celebrated its biggest success to date at a big event, third place at the 1998 World Cup.

And the Croats go into Euro 2016 firing on all cylinders as they are coming off their biggest ever win, 10-0 over Malta in a friendly.

"This was necessary to depart for France in a good mood. Any victory is significant," coach Ante Cacic said.

Striker Mario Mandzukic, who scored in hat-trick in the game last Saturday, said: "We need to continue like this ... Aware of our quality, we hope to win matches in France."

Croatia have a host of stars such as Barcelona's Rakitic, Juventus' Mandzukic, Luka Modric of Real Madrid, Ivan Perisic of Inter Milan, and veteran captain Dario Srna of Shakhtar Donetsk.

The tournament in France offers then the chance to put all their skill and passion together for the team as they aim to element the class of 1998 which featured the likes of Davor Suker (now Croatian federation president), Robert Prosinecki and Zvonimir Boban.

"This generation is a huge promise which however is yet to be fulfilled," Boban was quoted as saying by German sports magazine Kicker.

Cacic has made it clear he wants players who run and fight in what is mainly an attacking game plan, similar to Saturday when his men "played dynamic and ... no nonsense football."

Full back Domagij Vida agreed on Thursday at a news conference at their base camp in Deauville that the team has to come first.

"We have fantastic players. But we all must serve the team because it is our aim to thrill our home country at this Euros," he said.

Perisic said: "All our players are from great clubs. All have good form. We can hardly wait to play against Turkey on Sunday because we want to show everyone what we are capable of."

Last update: Fri, 10/06/2016 - 11:11
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