Match winner Luka Modrić said Croatia "played a phenomenal match" to beat Turkey, although the squad is united in recognising the need to continue in the same vein.
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If you're born to be a leader, you have to know how to take responsibility at crucial times. Against Turkey at the Parc des Princes on Sunday, Luka Modrić showed he is fully prepared to accept that role for Croatia at UEFA EURO 2016.
The midfielder's pinpoint volley just before half-time settled a contest Croatia dominated for long periods, although Modrić was quick to switch focus to the overall group. "Thank God I caught the volley really well," said the 30-year-old. "But it's not about me – it's about the whole team.
"When Croatia fight like we did in this game, we're very formidable. We played a phenomenal match, with a good rhythm from start to finish, without any moments of hesitation. We deservedly won."
Having played just 45 minutes of football since helping Real Madrid win the UEFA Champions League on 28 May, Modrić acknowledged he felt the pace of a breathless game in the closing moments.
"I was a bit tired late on, but the adrenaline is high and with such great support from our fans in the stands, it pushes you on and lifts you, so you forget about the tiredness."
The goal in Paris also helped the Madrid playmaker land the man of the match prize, and though the effort – labelled a "wonder strike" by Davor Šuker – was only his 11th from 91 international appearances, Modrić's influence on this Croatia team is unmistakable.
His 41st-minute drive past goalkeeper Volkan Babacan augured particularly badly for Turkey when you consider Croatia have never lost when he has found the net – winning ten games and drawing one. Curiously, his last four goals for the national side have all been registered between the 41st and 56th minutes, although Croatia had other matters on their mind.
"Luka Modrić scored a fantastic goal, and that is the Luka we have to see in every game," said winger Ivan Perišić, echoing the view of coach Ante Čačić. "It's not just him though – the whole team need to be at this level. We have to continue like this."
That was a common topic in the Croatian ranks – the need to build on this Group D victory. "It's very important to make a good start. We've taken the first step and next up are the Czech Republic," said Modrić. "We mustn't stop here though. We must continue in the same vein, and I believe we will get another good result."