Croatia has opened its 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against Turkey in Zagreb on Monday night…
Croatia started the match, which was played behind closed doors at Maksimir stadium, with just two changes from the side that beat Turkey at EURO 2016 in France in June. New Juventus signing Marko Pjaca started the match in place of Marcelo Brozović, whilst Lovre Kalinić replaced injured keeper Danijel Subašić.
The first real chance of the match fell in the 10th minute to Croatia when Šime Vrsaljko whiped in a dangerous ball across the face of the goal from the right. Juventus striker Mario Mandžukić managed to get a touch on it which was deflected onto the cross bar by the Turkish keeper. The rebound fell to Mandžukić’s club teammate Marko Pjaca but his shot from 6 yards out sailed over the bar.
Five minutes later Croatia carved out a half chance when captain Modrić tried his luck from just outside the box which sailed wide. Croatia started to take control of the match and went close again in the 21st minute when Pjaca met a Ivan Perišić cross only to see hit crash against the bar.
Croatia hit the crossbar for the third time in the half in the 31st minute when Perišić tried to curl one past Turkey’s keeper from just inside the box. Croatia managed to control possession for most of the half but Turkey looked dangerous on the counter-attack. Good defending, in particular from Domagoj Vida, meant Kalinić did not have too much work to do.
Croatia finally went ahead just before half-time when captain Modrić was bought down inside the box. Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitić made no mistake from the spot. Turkey leveled on the stroke of half-time when a free-kick from Calhanoglu took an unlucky deflection off the wall to leave Kalinić stranded.
Turkey had the first chance of the second half when Kalinić was forced to save low to his right after a 18 yard drive. Both sides begun to give the ball away as the game went through a scrappy period in the opening quarter of the second spell.
Croatia nearly regained the lead in the 75th minute when Pjaca met Vrsaljko’s cross with a powerful header that was well saved by Babacan in the Turkey goal. Modrić, who had shown his class in the midfield all match, then laid on chances to Mandžukić and Pjaca but desperate defending kept the scores level.
Croatia, who had the better of the second half, nearly wrapped it up in stoppage time but Badelj’s shot from six yards out was brilliantly stopped by Babacan, who had an outstanding match in goal for Turkey. Croatia could not find a winner in the end and had to settle for just the solitary point to open their qualifying campaign.
CROATIA 1-1 TURKEY
2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Maksimir stadium, Zagreb
CROATIA: Kalinić – Vrsaljko, Ćorluka, Vida, Strinić – Badelj, Modrić – Pjaca (Kalinić ’79), Rakitić (Brozovć ’60), Perišić – Mandžukić (Kramarić ’82)
TURKEY: Babacan – Ozbayrakli, Koybasi, Aziz, Yokuslu, Tosun, Calhanoglu, Topal, Tufan, Mor i Ayhan