Turkey and Croatia anxious to impress

Turkey v Croatia Today, City Ground 7.30pm
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The Independent Online
Abdullah Ercan wants to become the first major player from Turkey to join an English Premiership club, and he is ready to reject advances from John Toshack's Deportivo La Coruna if an offer comes his way.

The 24-year-old midfielder plans to make a strong impact on English scouts when his country take on Croatia at Nottingham Forest's City Ground in their first Group D game tonight. "Any of the leading clubs in England would suit me," Abdullah said. "I know I could do well in the Premiership.

"I would adapt easily to the life in England. The game is so big. It is watched by 20,000 crowds at almost every Premiership game. I would love to be involved with that because although our supporters are very fanatical we really do not have this kind of level of interest."

Abdullah, who plays for Trabzonspor, is one of the key figures that coach Fatih Terim is banking on to upset Croatia. The Turks have lost just 10 of the 30 games under his charge and were beaten only once in their Euro 96 qualifying group.

Terim, who takes over from Graeme Souness as coach of Galatasaray next season, said: "I want players to make reputations for themselves because it will reflect on the improvements we have made in Turkey. We certainly do not fear Croatia, even though many people in the west are including them among the favourites."

Terim's squad is free of injuries and looks likely to line up in a 4- 5-1 formation with the former Torino striker, Hakan Sukur - now back with Galatasaray - leading the attack.

Croatia want success in order to raise the profile of their new country. Zvonimir Boban, the captain, said: "Football is more important than any other sport to the people of Croatia." Striker Davor Suker pointed to a glut of talented players who have made Croatia the dark horses of the tournament. "We've a lot of players who like to attack, but in modern football you have to defend first," he said.

TURKEY (Probable): Rustu (Fenerbahce), Recep (Besiktas), Alpay (Besiktas), Ogun (Trabzonspor), Bulent (Galatasaray), Tugay (Galatasary), Oguz (Fenerbahce), Sergen (Besiktas), Tolunay (Trabzonspor), Abdullah (Trabzonspor), Hakan (Galatasaray).

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