Guus Hiddink is inclined to play the long game as his Turkey team host Croatia in the first leg of their UEFA EURO 2012 play-off, explaining: "We shouldn't forget that it's a two-legged tie."
Turkey knocked out Slaven Bilić's Croatia in the UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-finals, prevailing 3-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Vienna, but coach Hiddink is eager to keep emotions under wraps as the sides meet again in Istanbul. "Not conceding a goal is a major priority for us," the Dutchman said. "Therefore it's important to cut the passing traffic. I expect an even game. Both teams have talented players and emotion is high for the two sides. It's very hard to predict the score in such games."
While some pundits have singled out Croatia as favourites to proceed to Poland and Ukraine, Turkey will not give up the chance of competing at a fourth UEFA European Championship easily. "We are ready to give them a very hard night," continued Hiddink.
Croatia's toughest adversary may be on-song Trabzonspor AŞ striker Burak Yılmaz, who has scored 13 goals in eight Süper Lig appearances this season. "If everyone plays as they can against Croatia, I could be one of the most dangerous footballers in the team," Burak said. "
Playing at a EURO is a dream for any player and we all have a chance to make this come true."
A hamstring problem means Galatasaray AŞ forward Colin Kazım-Richards will miss Friday's opener, while Croatia defender Vedran Ćorluka picked up a knock in their final training session before heading to Turkey. "We have had a special boot made for him for protection," said team doctor Jurica Rakić. "We are all hoping it's not that serious."
Bilić is already without defender Ivan Strinić, midfielder Niko Kranjčar and forward Mladen Petrić through injury, but with FC Bayern Munchen left-back Danijel Pranjić back in the frame, Gordon Schildenfeld should cover for Ćorluka if he is not fit to play.
"I know Turkey are a good team, but we will do our talking on the pitch on Friday," said Bilić. "We will go into it as if we were playing one decisive match, not two. The atmosphere in the camp is very positive and I have a good feeling."
With the first leg taking place on 11 November (11/11/11), Croatia's No11, captain Darijo Srna, has come in for some attention, though the FC Shakhtar Donetsk man said: "I don't believe in numerology.
We are up against the wall and must give more than 100% so we can look our fans, friends and families in the eye after the match. If we give it everything we've got, we will win the play-off."
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