Turkey - Croatia Preview: Group D dark horses battle it out in group opener

The Crescent-Stars and the Vatreni clash heads in their Euro 2016 debuts at the Parc des Princes, on Sunday at 14:00.

Turkey - Croatia Preview: Group D dark horses battle it out in group opener
Source: VAVEL

Turkey face Croatia in their opening game of the tournament and - as the Crescent-stars have failed to win all three of their opening games at past Euros - will hope to start this campaign on the right foot.

Fatih Terim’s men, however, can take one positive going into their first match, being that they have improved on all their previous performances in the competition. In their first appearance in 1996 they were knocked out in the group stages - having not scored a single goal in all three games - before reaching the quarter-finals in 2000 and then the semi-finals in 2008.

Turkey qualified for this tournament with five wins, three draws and two losses, making them the best third placed team. The two losses came for Turkey in the first two games, making them unbeaten in eight games. The Turks have also scored eight goals in their last four matches in major tournament finals.

Croatia, however, lost only one of their last six group games at the Euros, winning four and drawing one.

Two dark horses

Both teams have been labelled as underdogs in this competition and neither are strangers to this tag. In 2002, Turkey finished third place in the Korea-Japan World Cup, while Croatia finished third in the previous tournament in France.

The match will see two strong midfields battle head to head. Turkey’s 23-man squad includes Barcelona’s Arda Turan, as well as Bayer Leverkusen’s Hakan Calhanoglu and Galatasaray’s Selcuk Inan. Meanwhile, Croatia’s head coach Ante Cacic has the likes of Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic forming the heart of his midfield.

Can Hakan be the difference maker? | Photo credit: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Can Hakan be the difference maker? | Photo credit: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Previous meetings

Turkey and Croatia have previous history in this tournament, as Turkey knocked out Croatia on penalties at Euro 2008. However, the equaliser from Turkey in that game, which brought the game down to spot-kicks, was controversial as many believed that it was scored outside of extra time and so should not have counted.

This result was the only time that Turkey have beaten Croatia, with three of the six meetings ending in draws and Croatia winning twice. 

Team news

There is no new news for either side, however Turkish defender Serdar Aziz was left out of the Turkey’s squad due to an injury, while a suspension for Gokhan Tore left him out of the 23-man squad.

Croatian defender Dejan Lovren and young midfielder Alen Halilovic were both left out of Croatia’s squad.