June 8 (Reuters) - Croatia midfielder Niko Kranjcar believes they have learned from the bitter experience of their quarter-final defeat by Turkey four years ago and are ready to make a real push in Euro 2012.
The Croatians looked to have sealed a place in the last four when they grabbed the lead in Vienna with just a minute of extra-time remaining only to allow the Turks to draw level seconds later and eventually win on penalties.
A semi-final clash with Germany slipped out of Croatia’s hands but Kranjcar, who this week sealed a move from Tottenham Hotspur to Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev, is convinced such a slip-up will not be replicated with a more mature squad.
“If a similar situation to the Turkey game comes around then that scenario is not going to repeat itself,” he said.
“The reason we lost to Turkey was a lack of experience. Now we are at our peak and we are more experienced.”
Croatia kick-off their Group C campaign against Ireland on Sunday in Poznan but they face a tough task to make it to the knockout stages from a group featuring defending champions Spain and 2006 World Cup winners Italy.
Midfielder Luka Modric said victory against Ireland is essential and could kick-start a run comparable to Croatia’s memorable charge to the semi-finals in the 1998 World Cup, their first major tournament as an independent nation.
“It’s our most important match in the group. If we win it, then I believe we will reach the knockout phase. I believe we will play at our best and defeat Ireland,” he said.
”We are the favourites and I think we will find a way to beat them. It will not be easy, but I hope we will.
”Our primary goal is to get out of the group stage and then anything is possible, “I even think we could go all the way to the end and win the tournament.” (Reporting By Simon Evans, editing by Justin Palmer)