Any premature celebrations over a
3-0 win in Turkey in the first leg of their Euro 2012 play-off
could be fatal for Croatia and invite history to repeat itself,
coach Slaven Bilic said ahead of Tuesday's return game.
Although they have one foot in next year's finals in Poland
and Ukraine, the Croatians will take nothing for granted against
the team that knocked them out of the Euro 2008 quarter-finals
after equalising with the last kick of extra-time.
With the score 1-1 after 120 minutes, the Turks won the
penalty shootout and sent their fans into raptures in Vienna's
Ernst Happel Stadium but they were powerless against a
galvanised Croatia side in Istanbul on Friday.
"I don't think we will ever be able to get the 2008 defeat
completely out of our system but we have already forgotten the
game in Istanbul," Bilic told reporters.
"The first thing we all said in the dressing room was that
we are only halfway through our task because we face a difficult
90 minutes on our own turf.
"We will head into the game confident after earning a
three-goal cushion in the Turk Telekom Arena, where all the
pieces came together for us."
Although he will miss suspended defender Vedran Corluka and
midfielder Tomislav Dujmovic, Bilic has plenty to choose from in
a squad eager to kickstart a party in Zagreb's Maksimir stadium.
Danijel Pranjic will stand in for Corluka at left-back while
Ognjen Vukojevic should step in as the holding midfielder and
Borussia Dortmund's in-form forward Ivan Perisic could be
preferred to veteran striker Ivica Olic.
Unlike Bilic, his Turkey counterpart Guus Hiddink has
limited options with four key players suspended and defender
Giray Kacar sidelined with a groin strain.
The under-fire Dutchman will be forced to make wholesale
changes after Arda Turan, Sabri Sarioglu, Emre Belozoglu and
Hakan Balta earned yellow cards which rule them out of the
Criticised by Turkish media for a tepid performance, Hiddink
was also lambasted by Atletico Madrid forward Arda, who was
quoted as saying by the Milliyet newspaper that the coach's
tactics had invited the rout.
"Hiddink's choices opened the way for this result, we had a
problem up front in particular because our boss played [Burak]
Yilmaz alone up front and we were ineffective in front of goal,"
Arda was quoted as saying.
"We should have played with at least three players in attack
but our boss showed timidity based on our opponents' place in
the world rankings.
"If your boss managing you from the touchline doesn't trust
his footballers, you are already starting the match 1-0 down."
Croatia - ranked 12th in the world - took a second-minute
lead through Olic in the first leg and Turkey, who are ranked
26th by FIFA, never looked like coming back after Mario
Mandzukic made it 2-0 with a header from a tight angle.
Corluka silenced the normally raucous home crowd in Istanbul
with the third shortly after the break but Bilic is now wary of
complacency creeping in.
"It will not be a return leg with the makings of a friendly
match because Turkey are a good team and they are coming here to
get a result," he said.
"Football is unpredictable, we have seen that already and we
will have to play even better than in the first leg."
Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa; Domagoj Vida, Gordon Schildenfeld,
Josip Simunic, Danijel Pranjic; Darijo Srna, Ognjen Vukojevic,
Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic; Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic.
Turkey: Volkan Demirel; Gokhan Gonul, Servet Cetin, Egemen
Korkmaz, Ismail Koybasi; Hamit Altintop, Serkan Balci, Selcuk
Inan, Caner Erkin; Umut Bulut, Burak Yilmaz
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