Andrew Warshaw: Modric’s wonder goal eases Croatian pain
Modric's wonder strike sparks dangerous Croats; eases pain of 2008 loss
REPORTING FROM PARIS
(Luka Modric 41)
They proudly displayed their respective flags, made a cacophony of noise, created at times a hostile atmosphere and screeched wolf-whistles at every suspect challenge by their opponents.
But that is only to be expected from fans of Turkey and Croatia and, apart from a couple of anxious moments - one involving a smoke bomb, the other a fan rushing onto the pitch - yesterday's high-risk Euro 2016 fixture thankfully went off peacefully unlike the disgraceful scenes in Marseille 24 hours earlier.
And on the pitch, it took a sublime effort by Real Madrid's Luka Modric to win the game for the highly fancied Croats and gain revenge for their heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat by the Turks in the quarter-finals eight years ago.
Croatian coach Ante Cacic boldly predicted before these Finals that the current side could match the achievements of the vintage side who finished third at the 1998 World Cup.
He had a point, given the luxury of being able to field one of the most star-studded midfield combinations in the competition.
Yet, there was always the worry that Croatia's fans might disrupt the occasion, given what happened in qualifying when the home fixture against Italy had to be held behind closed doors because of racist chanting.
Croatian fans were banned from travelling to Norway and Azerbaijan, but there was no such prohibition yesterday as their country returned to the scene of their finest hour, when they beat the Dutch in the 1998 World Cup third-place play-off.
That was the World Cup, however, and Croatia will have been conscious of the crushing disappointment of the 2008 Euros, when they were seconds away from the semi-finals only to concede a dramatic equaliser and go down on penalties.
Slaven Bilic, Croatia's coach at the time, said the pain would live with him for ages and haunt his country forever.
Revenge then, was very much in the air on a gray, drizzly afternoon at the Parc des Princes, where both sets of fans, renowned for their nationalism, were in deafening mood.
Thankfully, there was a notable lack of hostility in the cafes and bars outside the stadium ahead of kick off, and in the stands.
If there was a Group of Death, this is probably it with Spain and the Czechs lurking dangerously and it made this a tense encounter.
Tackles flew in, notably one on Modric by Ozan Tufan that sent the Real galactico sprawling to the ground.
Up against both Modric and Barcelona's equally gifted Ivan Rakitic, the Turks were always likely to have their work cut out.
But, after conceding a couple of half-chances against technically superior opponents, they so nearly struck first, only for Tufan to glance his header straight at Danijel Subasic from six metres out.
The deadlock was broken three minutes before half-time - and what a goal it was.
Turkey only half-cleared another Croatia attack and that man Modric, with terrific technique, smacked a fierce right-foot volley from 25 metres through a ruck of players and under an unsighted goalkeeper's body.
His celebration, slightly marred by a Croatian supporter joining in before being apprehended by stewards, was understandable since Modric missed a penalty in that 2008 shoot-out.
Modric walked off at half-time to strains of "Luka, Luka", but Croatia would have been under no illusions about their delicate lead.
On the resumption, a loud explosion and a puff of smoke at the Turkish end of the ground momentarily silenced the crowd.
Fortunately, it appeared to be nothing more than a smoke bomb even though such items are technically prohibited.
Apart from a brief late flurry, Turkey were second best throughout the rest of the game, as the Croats continued to dominate, carving out a string of chances, the best of them when skipper Darijo Srna clipped a free-kick over the wall and against the bar.
Unlike England 24 hours earlier, Croatia would have been pleased not to have had to pay for their profligacy.
- TURKEY: Volkan Babacan, Gokhan Gonul, Mehmet topal, Hakan Balta, Caner erkin, ozan tufan, Selcuk Inan, oguzhan ozyakup (Volkan Sen 46), Hakan Calhanoglu, Cenk tosun (emre nor 69), Arda turan (Burak yilmaz 65)
- CROATIA: Danijel Subasic, Darijo Srna, Vedran Corluka, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic, luka Modric, Milan Baldelj, Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Rakitic (Gordon Schildenfeld 90), Ivan Perisic (Andrej Kamaric 87), Mario Mandzukic (Marko Pjaca 90)