Croatia took a massive step towards UEFA EURO 2012 with a comfortable play-off first-leg win in Turkey.
A 50,000 crowd in Istanbul was stunned as Ivica Olić and Mario Mandžukić put Croatia two up at half-time and Vedran Ćorluka headed a third shortly after the break. Turkey will now need to produce an even more dramatic recovery in Zagreb on Tuesday than they did in the 2008 quarter-final against these opponents.
Just two minutes in and Croatia did what they had set out to do – score. A quick free-kick caught the Turkish defence by surprise, with Ćorluka getting to the byline and crossing for Olić to flick the ball past goalkeeper Volkan Demirel.
From then on Croatia were rampant. Chances were not numerous but every time they countered the Turkey defence seemed to be stretched to the limit. In the 32nd minute Croatia doubled their advantage as an attack was not cleared and captain Darijo Srna's delivery was headed in by Mandžukić.
The best Turkey could hope for was to get a goal before half-time in order to lift their spirits and assuage the growing frustration in the stands. Unfortunately for them that goal did not come; on the contrary it was Olić who could have put the visitors three up, but Demirel saved.
Just as at the start of the first half, Croatia raced out of the blocks, winning an early free-kick which was whipped in by Srna and finished off by Ćorluka. It might even have been four, as another Srna free-kick was met by Josip Šimunić but Volkan saved and Luka Modrić shot past the post. Nevertheless, Croatia are on the verge of a fourth EURO finals in five attempts.
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