Modric inspires Croatia, Germany make solid start

Matchday 3 of UEFA EURO 2016 was notable for a successful opening display by Germany, who allayed any lingering doubts about their form with a diligent and solid 2-0 victory over Ukraine. In the other Group C match, Poland dominated Northern Ireland despite the tight final scoreline (1-0). Elsewhere, Croatia got their campaign off to a winning start by outclassing Turkey in Group D, Luka Modric’s impressive volley proving sufficient to collect all three points. takes a look back at Sunday’s thrills and spills.

The day’s results
Turkey 0-1 Croatia
Poland 1-0 Northern Ireland
Germany 2-0 Ukraine

The analysis
The three defeats out of five friendly matches that Germany had suffered in the run-up to the tournament had created a certain unease in the world champions’ camp, but an excellent start to their match with Ukraine, which saw them take the lead through a 19th minute Shkodran Mustafi header, reassured the players and fans alike.

Ukraine came back into the match, however, forcing Manuel Neuer to produce several fine saves. Joachim Low’s men subsequently regained control of the game in the second half and finally sealed the points in injury time through Bastian Schweinsteiger, who finished off a marvellous counter-attack with aplomb.

Poland, Germany’s upcoming opponents, set themselves up nicely for their next challenge by comfortably seeing off Northern Ireland, who were making their first-ever appearance in the continental competition. Arkadiusz Milik, Poland’s 22-year-old forward, made a particular nuisance of himself, and finally got what his play deserved in the 51st minute, as his low shot broke the deadlock. In spite of their obvious superiority versus a Northern Irish team that appeared to be camped in their own half at times, that proved to be the only goal of the encounter.

Croatia also put in a commanding performance against an initially lively Turkish side that eventually waned physically as the match went on. Modric’s first-half opener confirmed the Croatians’ dominance, which only increased in the second period. Ante Cacic’s charges face Czech Republic next on Friday 17 June, while the Turks have the unenviable task of taking on reigning European champions Spain.

Highlight of the day
Croatia’s Luka Modric lived up to his top billing at Parc des Princes, touching the ball more often than any other player (78 times), managing the most passes (52) and dispatching his only shot on target – a rocket of a volley after the ball had been half-cleared by the Turkish defence – into the back of the net. It will have come as no surprise to the watching fans that the Real Madrid midfielder was named Man of the Match.

The stat

1 – In what was just their third appearance at a continental contest, Poland recorded their first-ever victory at this level on Sunday. At the two previous European Championships in which they competed, in 2008 and 2012, they registered a total of three draws and three defeats.

What they said
“I told my players that I was more concerned about the Czechs than the Turks, so I’d like to put this match behind us now and focus on the next one. It’s important that we concentrate on our two remaining group matches. We have no intention of saving our energy; we’re going to give it 100 per cent, correct some of the mistakes we made today and do our very best,” Croatia coach Ante Cacic.