Croatia may not be one of the favourites to win Euro 2016, but if their star players get their game right, anything is possible. Croatia will be keen to get off to a winning start as they face Turkey at Parc des Princes in Paris on Sunday.
Croatia were one of the best teams during the qualifying stages, finishing second in Group H, which included Norway Italy, and Bulgaria among other teams in their pool. Croatia lost only one game in the qualifiers, so they come into this Euro 2016 as a confident unit.
With players like Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic and their Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic, Croatia will be a threat going forward. These players will need to play an important role if Croatia are to go a long way in the competition. They have the ammunitions, but their delivery in France remains a question.
One has seen a great chemistry between their players, which is evident on the field, and coach Ante Cacic praised the team for good camaraderie ahead of their first Euro 2016 game.
"Our team are ready, we have a big appetite and the atmosphere in the squad is perfect. It's always like this in the Croatia team. We have quality players, a good team spirit and some players with experience of two Euros and a World Cup. We have some new quality young players, which means we have a good mixture," UEFA's official website quoted Cacic as saying.
Spain and the Czech Republic are the other two teams in the group. Though Spain and Croatia look strong, Turkey and the Czech Republic are also capable of reaching the round of 16. Cacic is aware of it, and understands the importance of a positive result against Turkey.
"There's no side in our group that's not expecting to get through the group stage, but the first game against Turkey is really important for both us and them. We need to start by retaining possession, press them and push for three points. With all due respect to Turkey, we're ready to get a good result and I think we can achieve it," Cacic said.
Cacic seems to be quite confident of earning three points from the first game, but Turkey stand in their way. Turkey players have a determined approach, which will make life tough for Croatia. Besides their hunger, world-class players like Arda Turan will be keen to help his team start Euro 2016 with a wn.
Though Turkey start as second-favourites, their priority should be to stop Croatia's midfield players from clicking. If Modric and Rakitic are provided good space to work with, the duo can punish Turkey.
Coach Fatih Terim is looking forward to the important clash, and still considers Turan their key player, though he did not feature for Barcelona regularly. Terim also praised 18-year-old Emre Mor ahead of the match.
"Emre Mor is an extraordinary player. I called him up to the national team and I think I made the right call. I believe he will grow into a world-class player after learning how to play football in the right way. We would like Arda Turan to play more for his club [Barcelona], but he was a regular [for Turkey] even when he did not play at all [until January]. Whether or not he plays regularly for his club, Arda is our most important player," Terim said.
Turkey can also take inspiration from their huge win over Croatia in the quarterfinal in Euro 2008, where they won on penalties. But this Croatia team, who are unbeaten since September, are a different unit, and even more dangerous.
Turkey vs Croatia is scheduled for a 2 p.m. BST (6:30 p.m. IST, 9 a.m. EST) start. TV coverage and Live treaming options for Euro 2016 are given below.
India: TV: Sony Six/HD and Sone ESPN/HD. Live Streaming: Sonyliv.
Croatia: HRT 2
Turkey: TRT 1
France: TV: Bein Sports 1. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
USA: TV: ESPN. Live Streaming: Watch ESPN.
Canada: TV: TSN and RDS. Live Streaming: TSN TV.
Australia: TV: Bein Sports and SBS One. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
Germany: TV: ZDF and ORF.
Latin America: TV: DirecTV.
China and Hong Kong: TV: CCTV and LeTV.
Thailand: TV: Channel 3.
Singapore: TV: Eleven Singapore and Singtel. Live Streaming: Singtel Go.
Malaysia: TV: Astro.
Middle East and North Africa: TV: Bein Sports Max. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa: TV: SuperSport 3. Live Streaming: SuperSport