Modric moment of class lifts Croatia to 1-0 win over Turkey
PARIS >> When Luka Modric scores, Croatia can't be beaten.
The diminutive Real Madrid midfielder made the difference again on Sunday, displaying perfect technique to score with a dipping volley and lift Croatia to a 1-0 win over Turkey at the European Championship.
Although Croatia coach Ante Cacic called it "magical," the modest Modric could not even recall that his 11th international goal over a 10-year span made it 10 wins and a draw when he is on the scoresheet.
"If this is true then it's really important," Modric said through a translator. "I kicked it in a perfect way, but I'm even happier about the performance and the three points."
Modric settled an often rugged and bloodied game at Parc des Princes in the 41st minute. He strode forward into the path of a high clearance and sent a 25-meter shot past a diving Volkan Babacan in the Turkish net.
"He was really our leader," Cacic said through a translator. "We need Luka in this form because the team looks different, it looks better."
Croatia had several good chances to pad its lead, but was twice denied by the crossbar in the second half. Veteran captain Darijo Srna's curling free kick glanced off the woodwork on its way over, and Ivan Perisic's close-range header rebounded out of danger.
Modric's goal stood out in a mostly uninspiring first half. Playing in a deep role, he was perfectly placed when Turkey's defense panicked while dealing with a cross into the goalmouth.
In the first Euro 2016 match after violence Saturday at the game between Russia and England in Marseille, a fan in a Croatia shirt jumped from the stands to join the players while they were celebrating the goal. He was led away by stadium security staff.
"After scoring this kind of goal I didn't even notice at first," Modric said of the incident. "If he went on the pitch, he went with a really positive attitude."
Still, the breach of security will likely cost Croatia's soccer federation a fine from UEFA.
The 1-0 scoreline was the same when the teams made their European Championship debuts playing each other in 1996 in England.
"We never start well in these big tournaments," said Turkey coach Fatih Terim, who led the team 20 years ago, and then again in 2008 when the team reached the semifinals. "I am upset but, as I said, we will learn our lessons. We shouldn't lose the ball so easily and we should run and fight more."
Two teams better known for neat ground passes mostly preferred lofting crosses into the goalmouth. Unfortunately for Croatia, back-to-back headed chances in the 23rd were wasted by midfielder Marcelo Brozovic.
Turkey's best headed chance also fell to a midfielder. Ozan Tufan miscued in the 29th to force goalkeeper Danijel Subasic into a stumbling save on his goal line.
Amid so much aerial play, there were collisions and casualties.
Croatia defender Vedran Corluka was left with a bloodied head and face by forward Cenk Tosun's elbow. Tosun was shown a yellow card and Corluka wore a large white bandage until he could be stitched up at halftime.
Corluka's wound reopened and he was patched up twice more, angering Turkish fans whistled and jeered when he fell to the ground becauase they felt he was wasting time.
"He is a fighter," Cacic said of Corluka. "He showed so much courage, made so many headers even with the bleeding."
In the other Group D match, Spain will play the Czech Republic on Monday in Toulouse.
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