Turkey and Croatia will battle it out for a spot in Euro 2012 when they meet in a two-legged playoff round. The first game will be held in Istanbul on Nov. 11th at Ataturk Olympic Stadium. The two teams will then head to Zagreb to do it all over again just four days later at Stadion Maksimir.
The last time the two teams meant in such a big game can back in Euro 2008 when Turkey put Croatia out in the quarterfinal stage after beating them in a penalty shootout. The game was a classic with Croatia jumping into a 1-0 lead in the last minute of overtime and then Turkey storming right back to level the game just before the final whistle blew. That game will surely be on the minds of the Croatians once this series gets underway.
Turkey made the playoffs on the last day of the group qualifying stage when they edged Azerbaijan 1-0 at home. They ended up in second place in Group A five wins, two draws and three losses for 17 points. They managed to finish two points ahead of Belgium as they lost their final game away 3-1 to Germany. The Germans won the group easily as they went undefeated with 30 points from 10 games.
Croatia finished second in Group F with a total of 22 points from seven wins, a draw and two losses. They finished a comfortable six points ahead of third-place Israel and just two points behind group leaders Greece. Their fate was basically decided when they lost 2-0 at Greece in the second-last qualifying game on Oct. 7th.
Slaven Bilic, manager of Croatia, has had to juggle his 24-man squad due to injuries. Bayern Munich’s Ivica Olic has been called up along with his teammate Danijel Pranjic. However, Ivan Strinic, Mladen Petric, and Niko Kranjcar will miss the games due to various ailments. In addition, Milan Badelj, captain of Dinamo Zagreb wasn’t named to the squad and neither was Ivan Klasnic, who plays in England for Bolton Wanderers. Two other additions are defender Manuel Pamic and Hamburg’s Ivo Ilicevic.
Turkey manager Guus Hiddink named Caner Erkin, Halil Altintop, and Ozan Ipek to the squad even though the trio hasn’t represented their country since the summer of 2010. Midfielder Nuri Şahin won’t see any action since he has a knee injury and Yekta Kurtulus will be missing along with Gokhan Zan.
The two teams have met just four times in the past with each team winning once and the other two matches ending in draws. In their last five games overall Turkey has won three, lost one and drawn one, while Croatia has the same record.
This is going to be a close series, but Croatia are the slight favourites. They will need to get at least a draw in the first match in Turkey to make sure they qualify for the tournament and they should be able to do it in Istanbul.
Sportsbook William Hill has the odds of Turkey winning this game at 5/4 and the odds of a Croatia win at 2/1. The odds of a draw are 19/10.
Goalkeepers: Volkan Demirel (Fenerbahçe SK), Sinan Bolat (R. Standard de Liège), Tolga Zengin (Trabzonspor AŞ)
Defenders: Gökhan Gönül (Fenerbahçe SK), Sabri Sarıoğlu (Galatasaray AŞ), Servet Çetin (Galatasaray AŞ), Ömer Toprak (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Egemen Korkmaz (Beşiktaş JK), Giray Kaçar (Trabzonspor AŞ), Hakan Balta (Galatasaray AŞ), İsmail Köybaşı (Beşiktaş JK)
Midfielders: Hamit Altıntop (Real Madrid CF), Gökhan Töre (Hamburger SV), Selçuk Şahin (Fenerbahçe SK), Mehmet Topal (Valencia CF), Emre Belözoğlu (Fenerbahçe SK), Caner Erkin (Fenerbahçe SK), Selçuk İnan (Galatasaray AŞ), Arda Turan (Club Atlético de Madrid), Ozan İpek (Bursaspor)
Forwards: Burak Yılmaz (Trabzonspor AŞ), Colin Kazım Richards (Galatasaray AŞ), Umut Bulut (Toulouse FC), Halil Altıntop (Trabzonspor AŞ)
Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (FC Rostov), Danijel Subašić (GNK Hajduk Split), Ivan Kelava (GNK Dinamo Zagreb)
Defenders: Vedran Ćorluka (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Josip Šimunić (GNK Dinamo Zagreb), Dejan Lovren (Olympique Lyonnais), Gordon Schildenfeld (Eintracht Frankfurt), Darijo Srna (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Šime Vrsaljko (GNK Dinamo Zagreb), Domagoj Vida (GNK Dinamo Zagreb), Manuel Pamić (AC Sparta Praha)
Midfielders: Luka Modrić (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Ognjen Vukojević (FC Dynamo Kyiv), Tomislav Dujmović (FC Dinamo Moskva), Ivan Perišić (Borussia Dortmund), Ivan Rakitić (Sevilla FC), Mato Jajalo (1. FC Köln), Danijel Pranjić (FC Bayern München), Ivo Iličević (Hamburger SV)
Forwards: Eduardo (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Mario Mandžukić (VfL Wolfsburg), Nikola Kalinić (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Nikica Jelavić (Rangers FC), Ivica Olić (FC Bayern München)