Eight years after Euro 2008, Croatia will be hoping to get the better of Turkey as the two sides clash at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.
This weekend’s meeting will be the third such encounter between Croatia and Turkey at the quadrennial tournament. Nearly exactly 20 years ago – on June 11, 1996 – the Vatreni and the Crescent-Stars squared off during the group stages at Euro 1996. That match ended up finishing as a 1-0 win for Croatia. Twelve years later, the two sides met yet again. This time, the juncture was the quarter-finals of Euro 2008, during which Turkey defeated their opponents 3-1 during a penalty shoot-out.
So, right now, it’s one win for Croatia, one for Turkey. If one counts the Euro 2012 qualifiers, during which the Vatreni defeated the Crescent-Stars 3-0 on aggregate, then it’s two, Croatia, one Turkey. And if one believes in patterns, then it’s Turkey’s turn to win (something that, of course, will please one set of fans way more than the other).
Patterns, history, and speculation aside, this could be a make-or-break clash for Fatih Terim and Ante Čačić’s men. For Terim, this will be the third time he faces Croatia at a Euro competition, and he will be hoping to finally guide Turkey to victory in regulation time. Turkey started off their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign on a horrible foot, but rebounded admirably to end up as the highest-placed third-place team to secure their spot. And until they lost to England on May 22nd, they had been on an unbeaten run of form dating back to November 16, 2014, when they powered past Kazakhstan 3-1 in a Euro 2016 qualifying match.
The go-to man, of course, for Turkey will be Barcelona’s Arda Turan. Although the former Atletico Madrid star was unable to nail down a consistent spot in Luis Enrique’s starting XI, he nonetheless will be the player Turkey will need to shine in order to help them through a tough group stage campaign. On the opposite side of the pitch will be his Blaugrana colleague Ivan Rakitić, and Real Madrid’s midfield magician Luka Modrić. Both will be expected to supply Juventus striker Mario Mandžukić – who will be hoping to get up and running after scoring just one of Croatia’s 20 goals in qualifying.
Indeed, it looks set to be a very interesting battle in the middle of the park. Croatia, however, will be hoping that France will bring them good fortune yet again. How? Well, back in 1998, France hosted the World Cup, and although the Vatreni were unable to make it to the final, they finished in a very impressive third. This, to date, is their best ever finish at a major international tournament.
With many of their star men approaching their 30’s or already there, this could represent the last opportunity for Croatia to end their long wait for silverware. Will the Vatreni get revenge on Turkey for ending their successful Euro 2008 campaign? Or will Turkey get their own revenge on Croatia for dealing a huge blow to their Euro 2012 qualifying ambitions?