Croatia's Srna still feels pain of Turkey shootout loss
By Matt Smith
PARIS (Reuters) - Croatia captain Darijo Srna still feels the pain of losing on penalties to Turkey at the 2008 European Championship, but refused to talk of revenge ahead of another meeting between the teams at Euro 2016 on Sunday.
Croatia exorcised some of their demons by beating Turkey 3-0 on aggregate in a playoff to reach Euro 2012.
But Sunday will be the first time the sides have met at a major tournament since that quarter-final in Vienna eight years ago when Semih Senturk’s 122nd-minute strike cancelled out Ivan Klasnic's opener three minutes earlier to send the tie to penalties.
The Croatians, who had breezed through the group stage with wins over Germany, Austria and Poland, were left distraught after only converting one of their spot-kicks as Turkey reached the last four.
“I don’t want to think and talk about a revenge match, but it was a difficult match, a really painful defeat,” Srna told reporters on Saturday.
“The Turkish team showed you have to play until the very last second. Their mentality is really strong. They are big fighters.”
Croatia are 27th in the world rankings, nine places below Turkey, but Srna’s team will start as slight favourites.
That is due to central midfield duo Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic who as mainstays at Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively have both won the Champions League in recent seasons.
There are few better midfield combinations in Europe and this pair, along with Srna, fellow defender Vedran Corluka and striker Mario Mandzukic form the core of Croatia’s team with 445 caps between them.
“I believe in our team,” said Srna. “We’ve known each other for a long time, so we can cope against any team in this group.”
About 10,000 Croatia fans are expected in Paris for their opening match at the Parc des Princes.
Such a large following may make the French authorities nervous. Croatia last month were ordered to play two World Cup qualifiers behind closed doors following crowd trouble. In the Euro 2016 qualifiers, Croatia were deducted one point over a racist incident.
“It’s true we had some problems,” added Srna. “They (fans) know how important their support is for our team. In 1998, in the World Cup in France they were great and I hope they can repeat their performance from that World Cup … I’m quite sure there will be no problems.”
After Turkey, Croatia play Czech Republic on Friday and Spain on June 21.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)