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Cautious Croatia focused on finishing Turkey job

Published: Sunday 13 November 2011, 21.05CET
Luka Modrić has told his Croatia team-mates they cannot relax "even a little bit" as they prepare to conclude their play-off with Turkey holding a handsome 3-0 lead from the away leg.
by Elvir Islamović & Dirk Vermeiren
Cautious Croatia focused on finishing Turkey job
Croatia moved a step closer to Poland and Ukraine with their win in Istanbul ©Getty Images

Tournament statistics

CroatiaTurkey

Goals scored21
 
13
Total attempts189
 
129
Attempts on target84
 
54
Attempts off target78
 
52
Attempts blocked0
 
0
Attempts against woodwork1
 
3
Corners86
 
71
Offsides12
 
27
Yellow cards23
 
20
Red Cards0
1
Fouls committed157
 
149
Fouls suffered174
 
145
 
Published: Sunday 13 November 2011, 21.05CET

Cautious Croatia focused on finishing Turkey job

Luka Modrić has told his Croatia team-mates they cannot relax "even a little bit" as they prepare to conclude their play-off with Turkey holding a handsome 3-0 lead from the away leg.

Luka Modrić is counselling his Croatia team-mates against complacency ahead of their play-off decider at home against Turkey on Tuesday, despite holding a 3-0 lead following their remarkable first-leg triumph in Istanbul.

We can't relax, even a little bit. It could be very dangerous
Luka Modrić
We're back and we played like a great team again, in every position
Luka Modrić
Let's face facts – it's difficult, almost impossible, to qualify
Guus Hiddink

Turkey coach Guus Hiddink had promised "a very hard night for Croatia" on Friday, but his words began to lose their power inside the first two minutes as Ivica Olić found the net. Mario Mandžukić doubled the deficit before the break and Vedran Ćorluka headed in Croatia's third shortly after half-time to stun the 50,000-strong home crowd and leave the visitors on the verge of a place at UEFA EURO 2012.

"We've only done half our job," warned Modrić. "We really need to rest a bit in the next few days and prepare well for the second match. The most important thing is that we stay focused now. We can't relax, even a little bit. It could be very dangerous."

The Tottenham Hotspur FC midfielder is no doubt mindful of the memorable quarter-final between the two sides at UEFA EURO 2008, when Croatia thought they had sealed a spot in the last four after Ivan Klasnić opened the scoring with a minute of extra time remaining. Turkey still found time to level, however, and Modrić was one of three Croatia players to miss from the spot as their rivals went through.

Unable to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, there had been a sense that Croatia never properly recovered from that defeat, but Modrić believes they are now returning to their proper level. "The last time we played as well as that was [our 2-1 win] against Germany at EURO 2008," he said. "That's a fact and we shouldn't run away from it. We're back and we played like a great team again, in every position. We need to repeat that in Zagreb and seal our spot at the EURO, where we belong."

Slaven Bilić's men can expect vociferous backing at the Stadion Maksimir after a clamour for tickets in the wake of Friday's result, but the coach himself is also sounding a cautious note. "Don't be fooled: it won't be just a friendly match," he said, while refusing to reveal who he will field in place of suspended duo Ćorluka and Tomislav Dujmović.

Turkey face more pressing selection issues as Emre Belözoğlu, Hakan Balta, Sabri Sarıoğlu and Arda Turan will all be missing after incurring bans in the first leg. "I expect the players who take their place to play for their honour, for themselves, for their country," commented Hiddink, despite the sense of wariness in the opposition camp. "Let's face facts – it's difficult, almost impossible, to qualify."

The Dutch coach wants his side to above all restore lost pride and is urging his fringe players to show their worth. "Some will get opportunities to play themselves into the team because some young, new players will knock on the door to play," he said.

Under contract until next summer, Hiddink nonetheless feels that Bilić has been fortunate enough to call upon more hardened talents for this tie, saying: "Teams such as Trabzonspor play Champions League football and Beşiktaş play in the Europa League, but in between those games they are hardly challenged. Most of the Croatian players play in strong leagues outside of their home country, having to perform at their maximum every week."

Last updated: 15/11/11 16.07CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/news/newsid=1715090.html#modric+preaching+caution

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