A superb volley from Luka Modric secured a 1-0 win for Croatia over Turkey as Group D of Euro 2016 got under way at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.
The midfielder was part of the Real Madrid side that lifted the Champions League trophy late last month, and a celebratory couple of weeks continued with his stunning first-half winner in Paris.
In Saturday’s media conference, Croatia coach Ante Cacic insisted his team were about more than just Modric and midfield counterpart Ivan Rakitic, highlighting the depth in quality throughout his squad.
But with four minutes to go until the interval, it was indeed Modric who produced a supremely difficult piece of technical skill, volleying a dropping ball beyond Volkan Babacan from distance to spark wild celebrations among Croatia players and fans alike.
Turkey rarely threatened an equaliser, and in truth it was Croatia who looked the more likely to extend their advantage – captain Darijo Srna and Ivan Perisic both striking the woodwork in the second period.
The result means Croatia have now won 10 and drawn one of the 11 matches in which Modric has scored, as Cacic’s side put the pressure on double defending champions Spain and Czech Republic to respond when they meet in Toulouse on Monday.
A cagey opening brought little by the way of goalmouth action, until Marcelo Brozovic was off target with two headers in quick succession midway through the half.
Croatia continued to grow into the contest and forced the first save of note in the 28th minute when Babacan held Milan Badelj’s volley from the edge of the box.
But it was Turkey who ought to have gone in front a minute later when Ozan Tufan headed Gokhan Gonul’s inviting cross straight at Danijel Subasic from six yards.
And, with half-time approaching, Croatia got themselves in front courtesy of Modric’s moment of magic.
The Madrid midfielder ran onto the ball, which was dropping from high in the sky following a half-clearance, and smashed a first-time volley into the bottom-left corner from 25 yards.
Croatia were unfortunate not to double their lead in the 52nd minute as Srna rattled the crossbar with a free-kick that left Babacan motionless.
Srna was cursing his luck on that occasion, but the Croatia skipper was wasteful shortly afterwards, lashing wide of goal after Babacan parried Perisic’s cross into his path.
Brozovic whistled a volley narrowly over as Croatia continued to threaten a second, but they were denied by the frame of the goal once more when Perisic’s header from Mario Mandzukic’s delivery glanced off the bar.
In the final 10 minutes, Babacan saved from Brozovic and Perisic either side of Subasic’s routine stop from Caner Erkin’s free-kick at the other end as Modric’s moment of quality ultimately proved decisive.
Key Opta stats:
– Turkey have lost all four of their opening group games at the European Championships (1996, 2000, 2008, 2016).
– Croatia have yet to lose their opening game at a European Championship finals (W4 D1), keeping a clean sheet on four occasions.
– Croatia have lost just one of their last seven group games in the European Championships (W5 D1 L1).
– Emre Mor (18years 323days) became the youngest player to play for Turkey at a major tournament and is the seventh youngest in EURO history (all teams).
– Luka Modric became the first player to score for Croatia at two different European Championship finals.
– Both of Modric’s two goals at the Euro Championship finals have opened the scoring for Croatia – Euro 2008 and Euro 2016.