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Kovačić orchestrates Croatia victory in Turkey

A double strike from Chelsea captain Mateo Kovačić has helped Croatia overcome a tough Turkey side in their Euro 2024 qualifier in Bursa on Tuesday night.

Kovačić, who had only scored 3 times in 92 appearances for his country, scored twice to give Croatia a 2-0 victory and an important three points.  

Needing to bounce back after their shock 1-1 draw against Wales in Split on Saturday, coach Zlatko Dalić made three changes, bringing in Mario Pašalić, Josip Stanišić and Borna Barišić for Marko Livaja, Josip Juranović and Borna Sosa.

With a passionate crowd behind them and playing a high press, Turkey would force Croatia into a number of careless errors early on as the visitors gave away the ball on a number of occasions. 

The home side could have easily been two up within the opening 10 minutes, but Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livaković was in fine form, first palming away Cengiz Ünder’s fierce shot, before tipping Kerem Aktürkoğlu’s shot, after a Croatia mistake, around the post. 

Kerem Aktürkoğlu would find the back of the net moments later from close range, but he would be ruled offside. 

In the 17th minute it was Livaković again with a good save, this time from Orkun Kökçü’s close range shot.

After soaking up the early pressure, Croatia would take the lead in the 20th minute. Stanišić would get in behind the Turkey defence down the right, squaring it to Pašalić who eventually would tee up Kovačić who would make no mistake from 6 yards out. 

Croatia would double their lead in added time in the first half when Kovačić would be on hand to stab home the ball after Turkey’s keeper Mert Günok could only parry a Pašalić shot.

Pašalić had a chance in the 57th minute to extend Croatia’s lead when Luka Modrić found him with an inviting ball just two metres in front of goal, but somehow Günok would keep it out with a reflex save. Kramarić was next to come close, but his shot, after good build up play from Kovačić and Ivan Perišić, would brush past the post.

With the crowd still driving them, Turkey looked for a way to get back into the match but Joško Gvardiol and Josip Šutalo were proving difficult to get past in the final third. They did, however, almost find a way through in added time, but another fantastic save from Livaković denied them.

Coach Dalić will be happy to leave Turkey with three points, especially as it was a match where his side made a number of errors and could never find their rhythm.

Croatia now has 4 points from their opening two matches and go to the top of Group D with Wales who also have 4 points. Turkey has 3 points whilst Latvia and Armenia have 0 points. 

Croatia’s next match will be in June when they take on the Netherlands in the semi-final of the UEFA Nations League. 

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