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Modrić satisfied by Croatia's worthy cause

Published: Wednesday 16 November 2011, 9.20CET
"I think we belong in the finals," said Croatia playmaker Luka Modrić after he helped Slaven Bilić's side progress to UEFA EURO 2012 with a 3-0 aggregate win against Turkey.
by Peter Murphy
from Stadion Maksimir
 
Published: Wednesday 16 November 2011, 9.20CET

Modrić satisfied by Croatia's worthy cause

"I think we belong in the finals," said Croatia playmaker Luka Modrić after he helped Slaven Bilić's side progress to UEFA EURO 2012 with a 3-0 aggregate win against Turkey.

Croatia may not have reproduced their swashbuckling performance of the play-off first leg in Turkey on Friday but few fans in a freezing Stadion Maksimir were complaining as they celebrated qualification for their fourth UEFA European Championship finals in five attempts since 1996.

After their commanding 3-0 away success, Croatia were overwhelming favourites to progress on Tuesday night. That meant the goalless draw was sufficient, so satisfaction at securing a berth in the finals, rather than joy, was the dominant emotion on show afterwards.

"We are glad we won through against a tough squad like Turkey," said playmaker Luka Modrić. "I think we deserved this qualification and that we belong there in the finals."

Goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa concurred. "Turkey was a tough draw for the play-offs so we're happy with 3-0. It was a frozen pitch tonight and maybe some frozen play from us but we knew what our target was. They had a great chance in the first half, but after that we dominated and deserved to win."

Turkey needed to make an early dent in Croatia's aggregate lead and came within a whisker of doing so just five minutes in. Selçuk İnan's shot from distance bounced past Pletikosa and back off the post to Colin Kazım Richards just a few metres from goal. The FC Rostov goalkeeper's instinctive save from Kazım Richards's snapshot proved an early turning point in the game, denying Turkey a launch pad from which to claw back the deficit.

"We had a chance to score in the first half, in fact I had the chance," said the Galatasaray AŞ midfielder. "It was a reflex shot from me but the keeper did really well to save it. It was just too difficult for us to come back."

Rather than dwell on a failed mission, Kazım Richards preferred instead to accept defeat gracefully and look to the future with a positive mindset. "Now we will think about our World Cup qualifying games – that is our next goal," he said. "I want to congratulate the Croatian players. They deserve to go to the finals."

Croatia defender Josip Šimunić said UEFA EURO 2012 was a reward for the fans after a qualifying campaign which began well but at times threatened to become derailed. "The fans were great again tonight," said the GNK Dinamo Zagreb centre-back.

"We hope that a lot of them will support us at the finals. We received some criticism during our group games but in the end we managed to do it yet again – four times now out of five. I think this is really amazing for a country of just four million people."

Last updated: 26/09/14 2.26CET

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