Turkey - Croatia Preview: Two dark horses collide in Paris

Group D looks one of the toughest groups at Euro 2016, making this clash between two talented squads a crucial one.

Turkey - Croatia Preview: Two dark horses collide in Paris
Image credit: VAVEL

Contesting one of the most competitive groups in the tournament, Croatia and Turkey both have strong enough squads to make their mark on Euro 2016.

The strengths of these two sides are present within their midfield and therefore the middle of the pitch will be a fascinating and crucial battle when they meet in Paris.

Hakan Calhanoglu and Arda Turan represent genuine quality in the Turkish midfield, and their creativity will be key if they are to get the better of their opponents' star-studded duo of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.

Croatia pose before a game. (Getty)
Croatia pose before a game. (Getty)

Croatia

With an extremely talented squad, the success of Croatia in France will come largely down to their unity as a group - staff and players, as their manager, Ante Cacic's controversial appointment is said to divided opinion within the group.

Turkey will provide a much sterner test than their last opponents, San Marino, who they demolished in a friendly 10-0. Despite facing a much weaker nation, Cacic's side looked extremely focused and finished efficiently.

Juventus striker, Mario Mandžukić has a lot of pressure on him this summer, having not always replicated his club form for his country. A hat-trick in that last warm-up friendly ensures he enters Euro 2016 in goalscoring form, though, and Mandžukić himself has stated the importance of unity in the side.

He said: "We have to be as one on the pitch. We are aware of our quality, but it won't mean much if we don't act as one on the field."

On the field, one issue for them is a lack of established wingers. Ivan Perišić will flank the left, but on the right-wing Cacic must choose between his Inter Milan teammate Brozović - a central midfielder, or younger talent in Marko Pjaca.

It's a big decision, as providing quality service from wide for Mandžukić could win them the game.

Predicted line-up (4-3-2-1): Subašić; Srna, Ćorluka, Schildenfeld, Vida; Badelj, Modrić, Rakitić, Pjaca, Perišić; Mandžukić

Turkey pose before a game. (Getty)
Turkey pose before a game. (Getty)

Turkey

The Turks don't possess as many household names as Croatia, but they too have a strong squad. Manager, Faith Terim is vastly experienced and his ability to manage games well using his players could be a crucial element in their campaign.

Turkey have a mix of youth and experience, with talisman Arda Turan likely to provide a cutting edge going forward and the very highly rated 18-year-old, Emre Mor being a potentially devastating wild card.

Previously, Turkey have lost all three of their opening games in European Championships, but Terim is determined to start with a victory.

He said: "The habit of winning is really important, especially for countries like us."

Terim, whose leading his nation into his third European Championship, also said that the competitive nature of group D could help his side if they escape it.

"After surviving a group with Spain, Czech Republic and Croatia, I feel Turkey should climb much higher."

With the amount of quality their opponents have on the ball, Turkey may be more dangerous on the counter-attack in this fixture. A solid defence (providing Mehmet Topal can adapt to a central defensive role rather than in midfield) should give them a solid base for the likes of Turan and Oguzhan Ozyakup to hit Croatia on the break.

Predicted line-up (4-2-3-1): Babacan; Erkin, Topal, Balta, Gonul; Inan, Tufan; Turan, Ozyakup, Calhanoglu; Yilmaz.

History between the sides

These two nations met at Euro 2008 in a thrilling quarter-final. 

Semih Senturk of Turkey cancelled out Ivan Klasnic's opener in injury time, eventually taking the game to penalties where Modric and Rakitic missed.

Faith Terim's side were victorious as a result and went into the semi-finals against Germany. Croatia's La Liga duo may have ghosts of Euro 2008 to put to rest as the two nations meet 8 years on.