Croatia defeated Turkey to take their place in Poland and Ukraine, sweet revenge against a side that dramatically denied Slaven Bilić's team in the UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-finals.
Croatia seemed to have not so much a foot but both feet in the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-finals after Ivan Klasnić's 119th-minute opener against Turkey, yet coach Slaven Bilić had barely returned to the bench after the wild celebrations that ensued when Semih Şentürk scored a dramatic equaliser. With fate at its most capricious, Turkey prevailed on spot kicks; Croatia went home chastened, the hangover lasting throughout 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying as they finished third behind England and Ukraine. Second to Greece this time around, their reward was a rematch with Turkey in the play-offs – and revenge was sweet.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
If not for the form shown by eventual section winners Greece, Croatia would have received the plaudits in Group F, who showed enough consistency and promise throughout the qualification phase to suggest that their youthful side can continue to develop in Poland and Ukraine.
A run of three clean sheets in their first four qualifiers, including two convincing 3-0 victories, started their campaign in style, before being quickly halted by a potentially morale-sapping loss to Georgia. However, normal service was resumed, as they proceeded to win their next three on the bounce, before a ruthless execution of Turkey in the play-offs to seal their place.
However, they struggled in both of their matches against a resilient Greek outfit, earning just a solitary point from their two fixtures against Fernando Santos' men. It could be argued that their better performances were against lesser opposition, so it remains to be seen how they match up against Europe's finest in the finals.
PAST RECORD IN THE EUROS
1960 Runners-up (part of Yugoslavia) 1988 Did not qualify (part of Yugoslavia)
1964 Did not qualify (part of Yugoslavia) 1992 Disqualified (part of Yugoslavia)
1968 Runners-up (part of Yugoslavia) 1996 Quarter-finalists
1972 Did not qualify (part of Yugoslavia) 2000 Did not qualify
1976 Fourth place (part of Yugoslavia) 2004 Group stage
1980 Did not qualify (part of Yugoslavia) 2008 Quarter-finalists
1984 Group stage (part of Yugoslavia) 2012 Qualified as play-off winners
The Croats have enjoyed an impressive history in the European Championship, albeit most of their success coming as part of Yugoslavia. However, two runners-up medals in the first three editions of the tournament were followed by mediocrity, as they had to wait until independence in 1991 to make an impact once more.
Since then, they have featured twice in the quarter-final stages, in 1996 and 2008, and continue to go from strength-to-strength, with Euro 2012 becoming their third consecutive European Championship appearance.
Overall: P63 W39 D14 L10 F112 A47
Final tournament: P11 W5 D3 L3 F14 A13
Qualifying: P52 W34 D11 L7 F98 A34