The night in Istanbul could not have gone much better for Ivica Olić – having scored Croatia's fastest-ever UEFA European Championship qualifying goal to set them on the way to a formidable 3-0 play-off first-leg win in Turkey.
Olić struck after just two minutes and not far past the half-hour Mario Mandžukić made it 2-0. Vedran Ćorluka headed a third early in the second half and Croatia now look set to seal their fourth EURO finals place in five attempts on Tuesday in Zagreb. However, although Croatia outplayed Turkey in all areas, FC Bayern München striker Olić denied it was easy.
"There was a lot of pressure on us to get a good result here tonight," Olić said. "Not just because this was a game which could be decisive whether or not we would qualify for the finals of EURO 2012, but also because of the fact we had some disappointing results recently. We had something to prove tonight, and I'm glad we managed to do so.
"I think we played a great game, with a lot of courage and fighting spirit, and in my opinion we fully deserved the win. And if it looked easy for us, that only shows we performed as a team. Turkey did not create a single chance, which is quite remarkable since they had the home advantage.
"But still, you never know. Croatia clearly has the upper hand, but technically speaking the job is only half done. Turkey can still surprise us in Zagreb on Tuesday. But if we play the return the way we played tonight it shouldn't be a problem."
When the draw was made talk inevitably turned to the dramatic UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-final where Croatia seemed to have the game won in extra time only for Turkey to dramatically hit back and go through on penalties. Olić said: "I was part of the team that evening. I realise the media will talk of revenge after tonight's result. But as far as I'm concerned that will only be the case if we qualify on Tuesday. Not tonight, not yet."
Mandžukić also emphasised the effort that was made. "It is not up to me to say Turkey played a disappointing game tonight, but I can say I'm happy with our performance," he said. "We gave it all tonight, fighting for the full 90 minutes of the game. It might have looked a walkover for Croatia, but I can assure you it wasn't. Away in Turkey it never is. A victory like this you never get for free, you have to earn it.
"Every single player on our team really performed at his very best, and if we do so we can get the results we hope for. Now the challenge is to stay focused on the return game, because we are not there yet. You are right in saying it looks good for Croatia, but if we are not focused 100% on Tuesday it still can go wrong. In football it can change in just one second."
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