Croatia and Greece met for the second-leg of the World Cup playoffs in Piraeus, Greece on November 12, 2017.
After Croatia defeated Greece 4:1 in the first leg of the World Cup playoffs in Zagreb on Thursday, Zlatko Dalić’s side had a significant advantage going into the return match in Greece. The winner of the playoffs, as you know, advances to the World Cup in Russia next year.
Zlatko Dalić did not make any drastic changes to his winning side this evening, other than returning Mario Mandžukić to the starting eleven. Andrej Kramarić, the man responsible for Croatia’s fourth goal in Zagreb, took a seat on the bench. Greece’s coach Michael Skibbe, however, made six changes to his squad from Maksimir, placing Torosidis, Manolas, Retsos, Tachtsidis, Bakasetas and Christodopoulos in his starting eleven.
Greece attacked Croatia’s defense from the first minutes of the match, posing a threat in front of Croatia’s net more than a few times. Fortunately, Croatia was able to defend each play, and as this was Dalić’s strategy for the first half, Greece was refused each opportunity.
Croatia remained calm and collected in the first half, and while there were a few opportunities for Croatia, nothing materialized. A stunning strike by Ivan Perišić slammed the post in the 43rd minute, but the game remained 0:0 at the half.
A comfortable position for Croatia to be in at the half as Greece still needed three goals to equalize, the second half saw a much hungrier Greece side. Croatia continued to remain calm, playing a defensive game without any risks. There were still a few chances for Greece in the second half, and a goal was scored by the home team that was luckily called offside, but it was pretty clear that the team didn’t have three goals in them.
A brilliant save by Subašić saved the day in the 85th minute, and with no other real threats, the game ended 0:0.
With a 0:0 draw, Croatia advance to the World Cup in Russia next year!
The draw of the group stage of the World Cup is scheduled for December 1, 2017, in Moscow. The 32 teams in the competition will be placed in eight groups of four teams.
Greece (4-4-1-1): Karnezis – Torosidis, Sokratis, Manolas, Retsos – Zeca, Tziolis, Tachtsidis, Christodoulopoulos (59th Fortounis) – Bakasetas (from 59th minute Gianniotas) – Mitroglou (from 78th minute Pelkas)
Croatia (4-2-3-1): Subašić – Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinić – Rakitić, Brozovic – Mandzukić, Modrić, Perišić (from 86th minute Rebić) – N. Kalinić (from 78th minute Kramarić)