Croatia manager Ante Cacic hailed Luka Modric’s match-winning goal “magic” and praised the midfielder’s all-round performance in the 1-0 victory against Turkey.
Modric struck a looping 25-yard shot into the bottom corner of the net late in the first half to give his team the early initiative in Group D, which also includes defending champions Spain and Czech Republic.
Croatia created opportunities throughout the game, hitting the crossbar twice in the second half, but could not find a second goal. Turkey never really looked like making them pay though and with Spain up next, could already find it tough to make the knock-out stages.
Cacic told uefa.com: “Luka [Modric] deserves to be talked about – this was one of his best matches. He really played well, he was our leader. He scored this magic goal and it turned out to be the only one of the game.
“We need Luka in this form because, when he is, the whole team looks different. It looks better and more aggressive.
“I expected a very tough match – it was tough for us too but we stood up well. After we scored we held on to it well, we had more possession and chances to get more goals, but I have to be satisfied because it’s really important to win the first game – it sets you up for the next two matches.
“We had chances. It’s not easy to score more than once but we were unlucky. We hit the bar twice, [Ivan] Perisic had some opportunities but we didn’t protect our lead – we showed the desire to score one or two more goals.”
Prior to Modric’s superb 41st-minute strike, despite being on the back foot for most of the game, Turkey had the best opportunity to take the lead.
Gokhan Gonul put a fabulous cross into a dangerous area and Ozan Tufan, arriving in the six-yard box, powered a header straight into the midriff of goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, who dropped the ball on to the goal-line before smothering it at the second attempt.
It was a golden opportunity and it proved a costly miss as Modric volleyed Croatia ahead shortly afterwards.
Turkey head coach Fatih Terim knows there is plenty of room for improvement from his team.
He said: “We played well in the first half. Croatia were better than us in the second, but we had a big chance to score the first goal. If we’d got that, it would have been different.
“In the second half, especially after 60 minutes, we dropped physically and Croatia were better than us – they had more chances.
“It’s not over till it’s over. We played against a very strong side. We have two more games, against Spain and the Czech Republic, and we’ll do our best. We’ll keep fighting.
“I’m upset, but we’ll take our lessons from this. Our big players need to deliver more. It’s a team game but I have high expectations from them and, if they deliver enough, we’ll get some good results.”