Luka Modrić becomes the first Croatian to score in two European Championships after beating Volkan Babacan from 25 metres in the Group D opening game.
During a press conference on Saturday, Croatia’s coach Ante Čačić insisted his team was about more than just Modrić and his midfield counterpart Ivan Rakitić, highlighting the depth in quality throughout his squad. On June 12. 2016, the depth in quality was confirmed, but with four minutes to go until the interval, it was indeed Modrić who produced a supremely difficult piece of technical skill, volleying a dropping ball beyond Volkan Babacan from a distance to spark wild celebrations among Croatian players and fans alike.
Turkey rarely threatened to equalise, and in truth it was Croatia who looked the more likely to extend their advantage – captain Darijo Srna and Ivan Perišić 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 Modrić has scored, as Čačić’s side put the pressure on double defending champions Spain and the Czech Republic to respond when they meet in Toulouse tomorrow.
A cagey opening brought little by the way of goalmouth action until Marcelo Brozović 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 Modrić’s moment of magic.
The Real 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.
The Croatian side was 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 Croatia’s captain was wasteful shortly afterwards, lashing wide of goal after Babacan parried Perišić’s cross into his path.
Brozović 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 Perišić’s header from Mario Mandžukić’s delivery glanced off the bar.
In the final 10 minutes, Babacan saved shots from Brozović and Perišić while on the other side Subasic’s routine stop from Caner Erkin’s free-kick was the last chance for Turkey. At the end, Modrić’s moment of magic ultimately proved decisive.
Great start for the Croatian team at EURO, next match for the team will be against the Czech Republic on Friday in Saint Etienne.