Group B winners Croatia will look to match their 1998 WC performance when they meet Turkey in a Euro 2008 quarterfinal at the Ernst Happel stadium in Vienna. The winners of this game will take on Germany in the semifinals.
Croatia were one of the three teams to have won all their group ties- Spain and Holland being the other two. They started off unconvincingly, just about managing to beat Austria 1-0. However they then shocked Germany 2-1, and their reserves saw off Poland 1-0. Most of Croatia’s first team starters are fit- the only major injuries are to Dario Knezevic and Igor Budan. Ivan Rakitic is raring to go, and the Schalke midfielder should start just behind the hard working Olic. This could be captain Niko Kovac’s last game for the Croats should they be knocked out. The midfielder has already announced his intention to hang up his boots post Euro 2008. Robert Kovac, Josip Simunic, Luka Modric, Darijo Srna, Jerko Leko, Ognjen Vukojevic and Hrvoje Vejic are all one on yellow card, and will miss a potential semifinal clash if they invite the ire of the referee.
Fatih Terim’s Turkey started off with a loss to Portugal, followed by wins over Switzerland and the Czech Republic. They have been a bit unlucky with injuries- especially with their centre halves. Gokhan Zan is injured, Emre Gungor is definitely out, and Servet Cetin is struggling to be fit. The Turks were fitter in the second half against the ageing Czechs, but may not retain that advantage against a well rested Croatian outfit. Goalkeeper Volkan Demirel is suspended for this clash, and we should see veteran Rustu between the sticks. Ditto for Brazilian born Mehmet Aurelio, who might be replaced by Kazim Kazim or Karadeniz. A large number of Turkish players are on yellows- Emre Asik, Mehmet Topal, Arda Turan, Sanli Tuncay, Hakan Balta, Gokhan Zan, Kazim Kazim and Sabri Sarioglu. Turan and Nihat were influential in that comeback win over the Czechs, and Croatia may have some special plans to stop the duo.
Croatia are favourites on paper, but one must not forget Turkey’s never die spirit that fetched them three points out of nowhere against Switzerland and the Czechs. However the injuries may take their toll. Turkey also need to play consistently over ninety minutes- not just play one supremely well and do nothing in the other.The Crescent Stars should give Croatia a good run for their money, but Slaven Bilic’s side should emerge winners. 2-0 to Croatia, with Kranjcar and Olic scoring.