Comeback kings set for fight - Emirates24|7

Comeback kings set for fight

Croatia may go into tonight's Euro 2008 quarter-final as favourites, but Slaven Bilic's men are wary of being caught out by Turkey's reputation as the comeback kings.

The Croats made it to the last eight as comfortable winners of Group B with a score of three out of three after wins against co-hosts Austria, heavyweights Germany and debutants Poland.

Turkey in contrast only snatched their quarter-final place after Nihat Kahveci's last ditch double for a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Czech Republic.

Ironically though it was Croatia, with Bilic in defence, who produced the late killer blow when the two teams met at Euro 96 scoring the only goal four minutes from time.

Both are making their second appearances in the quarter-finals, Croatia in 1996 and Turkey in 2000, the teams going on to lose their matches to Germany and Portugal respectively. Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is a big fan of the comeback kings, comparing their style of play to a South American side, and 39-year-old Bilic has warned his players not to drop their guard at the Ernst Happel stadium.

"We'll be cautious and we'll be prepared because they've come back twice, but, of course, I'd like us to score first," said Bilic.

"They play good football, they're very aggressive, they have some players with great skill and some good strikers of the ball from distance.

"We've been following them from the first game, but it's not easy to communicate the information to our players. It's easier to talk to them about [Michael] Ballack or [Fernando] Torres. Then again, Turkey won't know much about our players either because we don't really have world-class names."

Turkey coach Fatih Terim, while not underrating tonight's rivals, feels his team have nothing to fear.

"Croatia are a good side, they beat Germany, but we are a good team too and we will get better as each day passes," said the man known as The Emperor.

"They have a young team, they play well, but as far as we are concerned we will go to Vienna and let's hope we stay there, it is winner takes all now. We respect all teams, but we fear no one."

Croatia's path to the quarters has produced one of the most stirring stories of the competition with the fairy tale return of kidney transplant patient Ivan Klasnic.

The 28-year-old, who underwent the surgery in March 2007 after his father donated his kidney, capped his comeback with the goal against Poland.

Team-mate Ivan Rakitic, reflecting on the strike, said: "That was not only very important for him, it was important for the whole country. You could see how the crowd reacted to him. It was the best of days for him."

He will be hoping for another one tonight if not for himself for his country.

 

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