Can Croatia get their Euro 2016 campaign off to a winning start when they play Turkey on Sunday evening?
Turkey and Croatia go toe-to-toe in the first encounter of Group D. For a team used to qualification, Croatia had a slightly nervous path to France where they comfortably outscored everybody else in Group H, but automatic qualification went to the very last round of fixtures, and while they beat Malta 1-0, they needed eventual group winners Italy to come from behind and beat Norway to finish one point ahead of the Scandinavians. Turkey qualified as the best third-placed team in the nine Euro 2016 groups, taking 18 points with five wins, three draws and two losses.
To Win Match
Turkey 26/10 | Draw 43/20 | Croatia 23/20
Turkey vs Croatia | Sunday 12 June | Parc des Princes | 15:00
Turkey arrive at the Euro’s unbeaten in eight competitive games with five wins and three draws – having not conceded in their last three matches. However, the Parc des Princes has not been a ground of joy for them, with Turkey losing 4-0 on their last trip to the ground. Times have changed, and The Crescent-Stars have a different look about them.
Captain Arda Turan and Hakan Calhanoglu will be Turkey’s key players when they hope to progress to the next round, firstly by breaking through Croatia. Other notable players are Oguzhan Ozyakup, star-striker Burak Yilmaz and Gokhan Tore, who has been snatched up by West Ham.
Turkey are one of the most dangerous teams from set-play with Calhanoglu’s deadly free-kicks and the Turks’ great aerial ability. Set-pieces could play a big role for The Crescent-Stars in this match.
Croatia are mixed up of strong defenders and energetic playmaking midfielders with excellent flair. Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric will need to set aside their domestic differences to form a formidable midfield combination.
However, the duo were overshadowed by the performances of Ivan Perisic in the qualifying round. Perisic was Croatia’s top scorer in the qualifiers, and led the whole group on the whole. That form has attracted interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs who will all be watching the tricky winger.
The Blazers’ record in qualifying was six wins, three draws, and just one defeat. They come into the competition having won both of their competitive fixtures under coach Ante Cacic, who replaced Niko Kovac in September 2015.
Croatia are on a run of six games being undefeated with five wins and a draw. Dejan Lovren missed out on a place in Cacic’s squad, with the Croatian showing his faith in younger players to get the Croatians all the way.
Verdict: Over 2.5 Goals at 4/5
From the entire set of fixtures in the first round, this could be the one to look forward to. Both teams ply their trade on attacking football, which could result in a goal feast. Calhanoglu and Turan will carry Turkey forward, while Modric and Rakitic will be ever-so-present in attack for Croatia. My mind is going with Over 2.5 Goals at a great price of 5/4. There’s just too much class in both attacks for you not to get on!
Written by Jesse Nagel for @Hollywoodbets.