Croatia beats Turkey 3-0 in Euro 2012 playoff

Croatia staked its claim to place at the 2012 European

Championship on Friday after defender Vedran Corluka scored one

goal and helped create another in a 3-0 victory overTurkey in the

first leg of their playoff.

Croatia found the net after just two minutes through Ivica Olic,

before fellow striker Mario Mandzukic extended his side’s lead in

the 32nd minute and Corluka nodded home in the 52nd to put the

visitors firmly in control.

Turkey coach Guus Hiddink gave his team little chance of turning

things around in the second leg in Zagreb on Tuesday.

”It is almost impossible to qualify now and our players must

play for their honor, for their country and for their teams in the

next match,” the Dutchman said.

Olic gave Croatia the ideal start when he latched onto a

deflected ball after a delivery by Corluka at the Turk Telekom

Arena. Corluka collected the ball after a free kick and his low

cross bounced off Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Demirel before dropping

in front of Olic.

Turkey then had more of the possession, but the home side never

really came close to scoring despite fervent crowd support.

In the 13th minute, Croatia nearly extended its lead when a

left-foote effort by Ivan Rakitic flew wide of the right-hand

post.

Turkey’s hopes of a first-half equalizer vanished when Mandzukic

headed home a cross from winger Dario Srna.

Hiddink replaced defender Gokhan Gonul with Gokhan Tore, but

Croatia scored again soon after the restart. Srna delivered an

excellent cross to Corluka, who was unmarked when he headed

Croatia’s third.

”I did not expect this result,” Croatia coach Slaven Bilic

said. ”Nobody comes and expects to score three goals in this

fantastic stadium.

”Both Turkey and we are emotional teams,” Bilic said. ”We

still have a big job to do because Turkey came back three times in

last European Championship… they have a big heart.”

In the Euro 2008 quarterfinals, Croatia was eliminated by Turkey

in a penalty shoot-out after conceding a goal in the last seconds

of extra time.

”If you play a strong team like Croatia, it is important to

maintain defensive organization well from the beginning of the

game. If you are outplayed very easily, it is already difficult to

overcome the deficit,” Hiddink said.

”We created pressure but we did not create real danger,” he

said. ”It is almost impossible to qualify now and our players must

play for their honor, for their country and for their teams in the

next match.”

Lineups:

Turkey: Volkan Demirel, Gokhan Gonul (Gokhan Tore 46), Giray

Kacar, Egemen Korkmaz, Hakan Balta, Sabri Sarioglu, Selcuk Inan

(Mehmet Topal 69), Emre Belozoglu, Hamit Altintop, Arda Turan,

Burak Yilmaz (Umut Bulut 81)

Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa, Vedran Corluka, Josip Simunic, Gordan

Schildenfeld, Domagoj Vida, Tomislav Dujmovic, Luka Modric, Ivan

Rakitic(Danijel Pranjic 83), Darijo Srna, Mario Mandzukic (Eduardo

Da Silva 90), Ivica Olic (Nikica Jelavic 85)