Croatia will be keen to get their first win of the campaign when they travel to the Timsah Arena to take on Turkey.

Croatia will be keen to put their last gap draw to Wales behind them when they travel to the east to play Turkey on Tuesday night.

Turkey were the only side to secure all three points on opening day and hold the summit in Group D ahead of the crunch clash. Croatia have built a solid reputation for themselves in recent years and will be keen to continue that by securing a quicker ticket for Euro 2024 as soon as possible.

The Turks will be playing their first home game since the devastating Earthquake last month and had to dig deep against arch-enemies Armenia on opening day. While defeating the minnows will have given Stefan Kuntz’s side bragging rights, Croatia will provide a stiffer challenge.

Kuntz’s arrival has helped lift Turkish football from the doldrums, leading them to ten wins in his first 15 games in charge. Turkey also secured promotion to the UEFA Nations League Group B last year and came close to trumping Portugal for a ticket to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Both teams can be considered the favourites to finish in the top two during the group stages. However, Wales can be a real handful on the day and could seize control of the group should results go their way on matchday two.

The last time both sides faced off in Turkey saw them play out an entertaining 3-3 draw. While a repeat will certainly thrill the neutrals, Zlatko Dalic will have his eye on all three points. The prospect of going into game week three with daresay just a point on the board will have alarm bells ringing in Zagreb.

It promises to be an interesting game between two sides who are expected to be in contention for a spot in the finals next year. Having felt out the competition in Matchday 1, it will be interesting to see how either side goes about their business on Tuesday night. The Hard Tackle takes a look at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics


Stefan Kuntz set his side up in an attacking formation last time out but is expected to adopt a more measured approach against Croatia. But then, it is to be expected given the quality of the opposition on offer.

Turkey did have to dig deep against Armenia, and this could see Kuntz make a few changes to the starting lineup. The German appears set to arrange his side in a 4-3-3 formation, which will offer them a better degree of flexibility to adapt to Croatia’s quality.

Mert Gunok will start in goal behind the back four of Mehmet Zeki Celik, Caglar Soyuncu, Merih Demiral and Eren Elmali. Ozan Kabak scored an own goal against Armenia and is likely to be dropped to the bench in the wake of Croatia’s more pressing attacking prowess.

Inter Milan star Hakan Calhanoglu will be the standout player in midfield and has thrived of late in a deeper role for the Nerazzurri. It will be key on the night as he will have to nullify not just his clubmate Marcelo Brozovic but also the imperious Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic.

Calhanoglu will have Borussia Dortmund star Salih Ozcan, and Orkun Kokcu alongside him. The trio will have the biggest responsibility of any of the home side’s playing XI on the night. It is as tough as it can get for the trio in the Group D matchups in this qualifying campaign.

Enes Unal has been in spectacular goal-scoring for Getafe heading into the international break and is expected to lead the line on the night. Cengiz Under and Kerem Akturktoglu will provide the width and drop back if needed to form a five-man midfield.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Gunok; Celik, Soyuncu, Demiral, Elmali; Calhanoglu, Ozcan, Kokcu; Under, Unal, Akturktoglu


The World Cup semi-finalists dominated at home against Wales only to be sucker punched in the dying seconds of stoppage time. The time is now for them to make use of their vast experience and put the setback aside, and get their qualifying campaign back on track.

Zlatko Dalic’s side more or less picks itself with Dominik Livakovic as the last line of defence in goal. He will be protected by the back four of Josip Juranovic, Josip Sutalo, Josko Gvardiol and Borna Sosa. Gvardiol, in particular, is a player to watch out for and has several of Europe’s top sides salivating over his abilities in the leadup to the summer transfer window.

The true strength of Croatia lies in midfield where the trio of Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic bring both quality and experience. Their ability to dominate proceedings in the middle of the park lays the foundation for the wing-backs to push forward and pepper crosses into the box.

Mario Pasalic and Ivan Perisic will offer the attacking impetus, also providing width with the latter, in particular, a player to keep an eye on. Andrej Kramaric scored against Wales last week and will be expected to lead the line on the night.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Livakovic; Juranovic, Sutalo, Gvardiol, Sosa; Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic; Pasalic, Kramaric, Perisic

Key Stats

  • Croatia are unbeaten in their last ten games against Turkey. But they are winless against Turkey in three games now.
  • Both teams have faced off just twice at the Euro qualifying stages, with Turkey yet to pick up a win over both encounters.
  • Croatia have a rather good record away to Turkey, losing just once in five encounters.
  • Croatia have lost just once in their last 14 competitive games across all competitions. The lone defeat came at the 2022 FIFA World Cup semi-final in Qatar.
  • Turkey are unbeaten in their last five home games, scoring 13 goals and conceding a mere five.

Player to Watch

Hakan Calhanoglu

Hakan Calhanoglu can be the hero for Turkey vs Croatia (Photo by AFP/Getty Images)

The Inter Milan star has impressed for his club this season and will be up against a player he knows well, Brozovic. Calhanoglu’s ability to set the pace of the game helped Inter succeed in Brozovic’s absence, and the time might be now for the Turk to show his teammate who the better player is.

Shackling Brozovic will limit Modric’s strength at carrying the ball forward and starve the Croatian frontline of service. The deeper the visitors’ midfield is forced, the further it will also impact their fullbacks’ freedom to push upfield.

While the tactic could yet be undone by individual brilliance from, say, Ivan Perisic, it gives Turkey a major opportunity to seize the upper hand and take the game to their opponents. A lot will depend on how well Calhanoglu can do his job on the night. Add to it his prowess on the dead ball, and it is clear to see why he is likely to be Turkey’s most important player on the night. 


Turkey 1-1 Croatia

Turkey will be buzzing after their win over Armenia and will also have home support to boot. Croatia go into the clash as favourites. But a lot will depend on their morale following the last-gasp draw to Wales.

The visitors will be aware that they will need points on the board and could push for a winner on the night. With the game likely to be hard-fought, The Hard Tackle predicts a scoring draw between both teams to cap off the first round of the Euro 2024 qualifiers.

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