Croatia opened their UEFA EURO 2016 campaign with a slender Group D success over Turkey in Paris which owed much to a brilliant long-range volley from Luka Modrić.
The Real Madrid playmaker struck four minutes from half-time at the Parc des Princes and his team-mates went on to protect the statistic that says Croatia have never lost when Modrić has scored – now winning ten and drawing one.
Turkey had two opportunities to clear a corner but the second attempt only sent the ball looping towards Modrić 25 metres out. His aim was unerring, his volley bouncing past Volkan Babacan into the corner of the net. The resulting defeat was Turkey's sixth in as many tournament-opening fixtures.
Ante Čačić's team had started positively, pushing back Turkey for much of the first half. Mario Mandžukić and Marcelo Brozović, twice, had presentable headed chances although it was from a similar route that Turkey almost broke throuogh.
Ozan Tufan met a delicious delivery from Gökhan Gönül only to nod straight at Danijel Subašić. Fatih Terim's side, however, were having their own problems dealing with crosses – unrepairably so, it transpired.
It might have got worse for Turkey as Darijo Srna's free-kick rattled their crossbar early in the second period, before Croatia's captain pulled a shot wide. Brozović volleyed over and Mandžukić teed up Ivan Perišić with a delicate cross the midfielder headed against the bar. Babacan also denied Perišić, but the lack of a Turkish attacking threat undermined the keeper's resistance.
Man of the match: Luka Modrić
Modrić climbed to seventh in the Player Barometer courtesy of his winning goal and all-round display here. He completed 52/57 passes – 24 of which were in the final third – yet also excelled defensively, with four interceptions and three clearances. His volley showcased his composure, accuracy and wonderful technique. "Luka [Modrić] deserves to be talked about – this was one of his best matches," said Croatia coach Ante Čačić. "He really played well, he was our leader."
Croatia take wide route to success
Croatia's tactics were clear from the off: get the ball wide and try to pressure the Turkish defence from crosses. The approach led to a series of headed openings throughout – and, indirectly, to the only goal with Turkey struggling to clear their lines.
Turkey must find cutting edge
While Terim's team had nine attempts on goal – compared with Croatia's 18 – only two found the target and Ozan's first-half header alone came close to beating Subašić. Turkey – who entered this match having lost just one of their last 16 games – toiled without reward in attack. They must rediscover their scoring touch quickly.
Team reporters' view from Parc des Princes
Çetin Cem Yılmaz (@UEFAcomCetinCY)
This was a tense game played in an excellent atmosphere by two sides who knew defeat would be costly. Turkey tried to close down Croatia but were exposed by a series of threatening crosses. From one of those, a poor clearance gave Modrić the chance to score a beauty. Turkey struggled for fluency going forward and the fact their creative players, Arda Turan, Oğuzhan Özyakup and Hakan Çalhanoğlu, had off-days did not help.
Elvir Islamović (@UEFAcomElvirI)
It did not go as expected in the first 40 minutes, but then the leader stepped up and took things into his own hands. His fantastic strike provided a much-needed boost. If the key Croatia players can take similar responsibility then the team can do something at this tournament. They still require fine-tuning, however, especially in the finishing department, because they cannot afford as many missed opportunities as in the second half.
Croatia celebrate with their fans after the final whistle