Luka Modric scored a sensational long-range volley as Croatia deservedly opened their Euro 2016 campaign with victory over Turkey in Paris. Modric struck towards the end of the first half and his team created numerous chances to extend their lead as they dominated after the interval. Darijo Srna and Ivan Perisic struck the woodwork while Turkey keeper Volkan Babacan made several good saves as Croatia won the first match of a tough group that includes Spain and the Czech Republic. Turkey’s best chance came in the opening half, when Ozan Tufan saw his header saved – but despite being roared on by their passionate fans inside the Parc des Princes, they were second best on Sunday.
They did produce one scare for the Croatian defence right at the end but there was a timely block from Vedran Corluka, who was wearing a white bandage that evoked shades of former England defender Terry Butcher after suffering a cut to his head from a stray elbow in the first half. Veteran right-back Srna had delivered several telling crosses into the Turkey area, as did Ivan Perisic from the left side, although Marcelo Brozovic in particular was guilty of failing to make the most of the openings. That all changed shortly before the break when Modric showed superb technique to strike crisply from 25 yards after a clearance from Selcuk Inan had looped high into the cloudy Paris sky.
Northern Ireland’s first match at a European Championship finals ended in defeat as Arkadiusz Milik gave Poland a 1-0 win in Nice. Ajax star Milik slotted in after being picked out by Jakub Blaszczykowski early in the second half. Poland had dominated the first half but were thwarted by some superb defending by Michael O’Neill’s men. Northern Ireland did not manage to get a decent effort on target and must now regroup to play Ukraine on Thursday. Poland deserved the three points, the first time they have won an opening match at a Euro finals, inflicting a first defeat in 13 games on their Group C opponents.
Northern Ireland endured an anxious opening and must have been relieved to get to the break still on level terms – they have now conceded just one first-half goal in their last 21 matches. But the mood changed when Milik, scorer of 24 for his club last season, took one touch before finding the net with a left-foot shot. Northern Ireland’s best hope was a well-worked free-kick which ended with skipper Steven Davis just failing to get in his shot.
Germany did not have it all their own way but in the end the outcome was exactly the same for them as it has been in all four of Loew’s previous tournaments with the team – a victory and no goal conceded. Ukraine did threaten the 2014 World Cup-winners in the first half after Germany took the lead through Shkodrian Mustafi’s header and yet by the end Toni Kroos seemed to hold the game in the palm of his hand. Some international teams under pressure in the final moments of tournament matches give away silly equalisers, and then there are the Germans, who have the single-mindedness to absorb the pressure, go up the other end and score a second, on this occasion through an unlikely goalscorer, substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger.
They got the job done. Toni Kroos put in a mesmeric performance in the middle of the pitch. But Ukraine helped them immensely, and save for a 10 minute period at the end of the first half, never got hold of the game.