Spotlight on Croats, Turks

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:57 AM ET

BASEL, SWITZERLAND -- Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain are dominating the headlines, all given good odds of emerging as 2008 Euro champion.

Meanwhile, there's a quarter-final today in Vienna that's screaming for attention.

Croatia and Turkey had provided some of the most entertaining and emotionally vibrant soccer of this tournament, yet they continue to play a supporting role to the so-called big boys.

Croatia won Group B with three victories, putting in as complete a performance as any of the teams that moved on. They scored goals, were tenacious in the midfield and gave up few quality chances at the back.

This is familiar territory for Croatia. At the start of every major tournament, it is one of the first teams to come to mind when anyone is asked about a potential surprise team.

It may be time to sing a different tune.

"We don't see ourselves as a revelation any more, although some people perhaps still do," coach Slaven Bilic said. "In our own eyes, we haven't achieved anything spectacular by reaching the last eight because that was our primary objective before the tournament started."

Croatia has Bilic to thank. His performance in this tournament has him being compared to the likes of Luiz Felipe Scolari and Guus Hiddink when it comes to strategy and motivation.

When it comes to emotion and personality, he's strictly Bilic and it's all good.

Bilic is missing one of his best players. If striker Eduardo da Silva, who was injured in the English Premier League, were available to play with midfielder Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, this team would scare anyone.

It is scary enough.

The revelation of the tournament is Modric. He's a classic midfielder who can control the pace of play. He's one of the best playmakers here and he proved he can score.

Premier League Tottenham got a bargain. It only cost them about $32 million to sign the 22-year-old from Dinamo Zagreb. If they had waited until after Euro, he would have been out of their price range.

The other feel-good story is Ivan Klasnic, who is the first player to take part in a European championship after kidney transplant surgery.

Out of soccer for a year when his kidney failed, his mother gave him a kidney in 2007, but the transplant was unsuccessful. He later got one from his father.

He came on as a substitute against Poland and scored the winning goal.

As well as things have gone for Croatia, it will now have to deal with the pitbull of the tournament.

Turkey is one tough team and has provided the tournament's biggest last-minute thrills. It eliminated host Switzerland three minutes into injury time and then scored three goals in 15 minutes, two in the last three, to come back from 2-0 down and eliminate the Czechs.

"The way they managed the comebacks in those games was impressive," Bilic told the Croatian press. "But the way they trailed in those games also tells us something. Their strength is obviously somewhere in between."

The tough battles have taken their toll. Turkey will likely be missing seven players to injury and suspensions, including goalkeeper Volkan Demirel.

Coach Fatih Terim stated the obvious: "Our biggest advantage is that we never give up."

Turkey has great confidence.

Forward Nihat Kahveci, who scored two goals against the Czechs, has said it would be easier to beat Croatia than it was to beat Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

Brave words from the pitbull.


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