Our match prediction:
Croatia was one of the positive surprises from the 2016 European Championship in France despite the antics from their supporters and an early elimination which came in the knockouts to subsequent winners Portugal. Led by the Real Madrid star Luka Modric, Croatia national team put in quite a performance against the likes of Turkey, Czech Rrepublic and Spain in the groups stage, but were not fortunate enough or lacked competitive experience to go past Portugal in extra time. Beginning of the 2018 FIFA World Cup brings the group stage replay against Turkey with both teams keen to kick of the qualifying campaign with three points that will be a huge morale boost after a summer of broken dreams. Much like Croatia, Turkey were also disappointed to see their European road end prematurely with Ireland ruining their hopes of reaching the last 16 as one of the best third-placed teams. Fatih Terim has decided to start the World Cup qualifiers without several Euro 2016 first-choices, including Barcelona winger Arda Turan who is left out of the squad due to his poor form in France. Both teams could be emotionally drained after an exhausting summer and desire to win could end up taking the best of them.
Highligted Player (Vrsaljko):
Born in Zadar on 10th January 1994, Sime Vrsaljko is one of the most talented footballers from Croatia’s new generation, who has already made a name for himself in Italian Serie A and Europe. The right-sided defender came through Dinamo Zagreb’s famous youth school and he earned plenty of top flight experience at a very young age before moving to Italy in 2013. After spending a year at Genoa, Vrsaljko signed for Sassuolo with a view of moving to Juventus in the future, although he has yet to realise a big club move. Capable of operating on either side of defence, Vrsaljko has emerged as one of league’s top full-backs and it is only a matter of time before he joins a top European club. Having represented Croatia at various youth levels, the defender made his senior debut in 2011 and has since come very close to nailing down a regular starting berth. Vrsaljko has a bright future in the game and he will be present at international stage in years to come.
Highlighted Team (Turkey):
Present on the international stage since 1923, Turkey only started showing some promise during the 70’s, but they had to wait until the turn of the century to place themselves on the map. While they lost all three fixtures at their first ever European Championship finals in 1996, they fared much better four years later, reaching the last eight in Netherlands and Belgium. Milli Takim were able to build on that result as they went on to reach the podium at the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan, while also finishing third at the 2003 Confederations Cup and making it to the semi-finals at the Euro 2008. Rustu Recber, Hakan Sukur and Emre Belezoglu were important parts of the country’s most successful generation, but the one including Arda Turan, Selcuk Inan, Burak Yilmaz and Hakan Calhanoglu is threatening to surpass their achievements. As the Turkish Super Lig continues the get stronger, the national team follows, and we should expect some big result from Milli Takim in the near future.