PARIS: When Luka Modric scores, Croatia can’t be beaten.
The diminutive Real Madrid midfielder made the difference again on Sunday, displaying perfect technique to score with a dipping volley and lift Croatia to a 1-0 win over Turkey at the European Championship.
Although Croatia coach Ante Cacic called it “magical,” the modest Modric could not even recall that his 11th international goal over a 10-year span made it 10 wins and a draw when he is on the scoresheet.
“If this is true then it’s really important,” Modric said through a translator. “I kicked it in a perfect way, but I’m even happier about the performance and the three points.”
Modric settled an often rugged and bloodied game at Parc des Princes in the 41st minute. He strode forward into the path of a high clearance and sent a 25-metre shot past a diving Volkan Babacan in the Turkish net.
“He was really our leader,” Cacic said through a translator. “We need Luka in this form because the team looks different, it looks better.”
Croatia had several good chances to pad its lead, but was twice denied by the crossbar in the second half. Veteran captain Darijo Srna’s curling free kick glanced off the woodwork on its way over, and Ivan Perisic’s close-range header rebounded out of danger.
Modric’s goal stood out in a mostly uninspiring first half. Playing in a deep role, he was perfectly placed when Turkey’s defence panicked while dealing with a cross into the goalmouth.
In the first Euro match after violence on Saturday at the game between Russia and England in Marseille, a fan in a Croatia shirt jumped from the stands to join the players while they were celebrating the goal. He was led away by stadium security staff.
“After scoring this kind of goal I didn’t even notice at first,” Modric said of the incident. “If he went on the pitch, he went with a really positive attitude.”
Still, the breach of security will likely cost Croatia’s soccer federation a fine from Uefa.
NICE: A second-half goal from striker Arkadiusz Milik steered Poland to a 1-0 victory in Group C on Sunday as Northern Ireland’s first appearance at a major finals for 30 years ended in disappointment. Making their debut in the competition, the Irish were unable to cope with an attacking Polish outfit that dominated the game.