DOHA, 29 March 2022 – Croatia has come from behind to beat Bulgaria 2-1 in a friendly international at Education City stadium in Doha on Tuesday.
Trailing 1-0 with 20 minutes remaining, Croatia would score two goals in five minutes to end their two-match trip to Qatar on a winning note.
Coach Zlatko Dalić made 10 changes from the side which drew with Slovenia on Saturday but decided to keep the 3-5-2 formation. Former U21 captain Nikola Moro made his senior international debut in the midfield alongside Lovor Majer and Mario Pašalić.
Nikola Vlašić and Marko Livaja started up front, whilst Domagoj Vida was given the captain’s armband and started in a back three with Mile Škorić and Duje Ćaleta-Car. Mislav Oršić and Borna Barišić started on the flanks.
Croatia controlled possession from the get-go, but they would struggle to find a way through the Bulgarian defence and create any real clear cut chances in the first half. The closest they would come was through long-range efforts from Moro and Barišić.
Bulgaria created a couple of half-chances themselves on the counter attacker, forcing keeper Ivica Ivušić to make a good save on one attempt.
At the break, Dalić introduced Ivan Perišić and Mateo Kovačić and immediately Perišić looked dangerous down the left, firing a shot just past the post.
In the 50th minute Bulgaria came close to opening the scoring, but Ivušić again was up to the task. Oršić came close next with a free-kick which shaved the post in the 59th minute.
With a half an hour to go, Dalić replaced his two strikers with Andrej Kramarić and Ante Budmir coming off the bench, but moments later Croatia would be left with 10-men after Ćaleta-Car picked up his second yellow card and was sent off.
Bulgaria would then take the lead in the 69th minute when Kiril Despodov was put through on goal and made no mistake after Oršić gave the ball away with Croatia on attack. The Ludogorets striker was then sent off after being given his second yellow card for taking his shirt off in the celebrations.
Croatia were given a penalty in the 75th minute after Kramarić was pulled down in the box and substitute Luka Modrić would send the keeper the wrong way to make it 1-1 with his 21st goal in a Croatia shirt.
Croatia would take the lead 2-1 just five minutes later with a fantastic solo effort from Kramarić. The Hoffenheim striker, who scored on Saturday against Slovenia, turned two men in the box before firing across the hapless Bulgarian keeper into the the back of the net.
Bulgaria came close to equalising in the dying stages of the match, but good defending from Barišić kept them out.
On Friday, Croatia will learn their World Cup group opponents when the draw is made. Their next matches will be in June when the UEFA Nations League starts.