Croatia and Turkey resume old European rivalry in Paris
PARIS (AP) — Twenty years after Croatia and Turkey played each other in their European Championship debuts, the two teams will add another chapter in their intimately shared history on Sunday at Parc des Princes.
The Croats beat Turkey 1-0 in England at Euro ’96 as both teams played at the continental tournament for the first time.
Then, at Euro 2008, both had their most successful tournaments when Turkey beat Croatia in a shootout to reach the semifinals. After Croatia took the lead in the 119th minute in Vienna, Turkey equalized deep into stoppage time and won on penalties.
“We should not think about what happened at Euro 2008 in Austria,” Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic said. “This is a new match, everything is different.”
Mandzukic scored one of the goals in Istanbul when Croatia ousted Turkey in a playoff to reach Euro 2012, winning 3-0 before a scoreless draw at home.
Still, Fatih Terim was not then coaching Turkey as he was for the run to the Euro 2008 semifinals, and also in 1996.
Terim is now back for a third spell coaching the national team, and at his third European tournament.
Turkey can thank the new 24-team format for being in France, advancing directly as the best third-place team from a group where the Netherlands failed.
Showing more of Turkey’s flair for late drama under Terim, it took an 89th-minute goal in a 1-0 win over Iceland in the last group match to clinch qualification and avoid the playoffs.
Croatia had a smoother qualifying passage to finish second behind Italy, despite having a point deducted. That was the most severe sanction by UEFA for persistent incidents of far-right behavior by fans, which also meant two home matches played in empty stadiums.
On the field, Croatia can be among the most watchable teams, though a national record 10-0 win against San Marino last Saturday likely meant little.
Creative midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are coming off influential seasons at Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively, and team up with Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic.
Modric and Rakitic, plus captain Darijo Srna, are also among Croatia’s holdovers from the 2008 elimination by Turkey.
The rivalry should not stop on Sunday. Both teams’ first competitive match after Euro 2016 is again against each other on Sept. 5 at the beginning of the 2018 World Cup qualifying program.