A 0-0 home draw on a bitterly
cold night handed Croatia a 3-0 aggregate win over Turkey in
their play-off on Tuesday and a place in the Euro 2012 finals.
While the result completed Croatia's revenge over Turkey for
a painful and dramatic defeat in their Euro 2008 quarter-final,
it also signalled a likely end of Guus Hiddink's spell in charge
of the Turkish national team.
"The possibility is big that this was my last game with
Turkey," the 65-year old Dutchman told a news conference after
he was asked if he would step down.
"I don't know what will happen next, I want to take some
time off to reflect on this campaign and consider my options.
"My age is also a factor and although I am not thinking
about retirement, I might prefer a role away from the spot
lights as a consultant or an advisor but I haven't made my mind
up for the future," he said.
Turkey were a much improved side in Zagreb after a poor
performance in the first leg in Istanbul, but Croatia
comfortably held their own in front of a passionate 25,000 home
crowd in the Maksimir Stadium.
Facing the mammoth task of overhauling the first-leg
deficit, Turkey threw men forward from the kick-off and missed a
double chance to take the lead on the night in the fifth minute.
Midfielder Selcuk Inan's cross from the left hit the far
post and when the rebound fell kindly for Kazim Kazim, Croatia's goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa kept out the striker's close-range shot
with a superb reflex save.
Croatia quickly regained their composure and launched
several raids down the right flank, with captain Darijo Srna
delivering a teasing cross for Mario Mandzukic whose header was
deflected over the bar by a defender.
Mandzukic missed Croatia's best chance in the first half
when he misfired high and wide from 10 metres after good work by
Ivica Olic, who also teed up Srna to shoot over the bar shortly
before the interval.
Croatia left-back Danijel Pranjic saw his shot from 20
metres deflected just wide on the hour, before Hamit Altintop
came close with a stinging low drive at the other end barely a
Croatia winger Ivan Rakitic then had a swerving shot pushed
around the post by Sinan Bolat before he side-footed the ball
wide from eight metres with only the Turkish keeper to beat
after a delightful one-two with Srna.
Rakitic was again unlucky in the closing stages, when his
piledriver from 20 metres shaved a defender and skimmed the bar
before Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Luka Modric had a shot blocked by a
defender in the dying minutes.
Jubilant home fans lit flares shortly before the final
whistle and hurled one on the pitch, narrowly missing their own
"We knew this was going to be a tough and anxious match for
us, especially the opening stages, so we are delighted to have
got the job done thanks to a fantastic first-leg performance,"
said Croatia coach Slaven Bilic.
"We are also aware that we are not better than Turkey by a
three-goal margin and that everything worked for us in Istanbul,
so we were a bit nervous knowing that we could easily run into
trouble if they scored an early goal.
"We are going to Poland and Ukraine with the ambition to win
Euro 2012, much like the other 15 teams, but we also know that
we could be knocked out in the group stage because no one is
going there to just make up the numbers.
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