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National Teams

4:1 on aggregate

Off to World Cup!
Croatia eases past

Off to World Cup! Croatia eases past Greece
photo by: HNS
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With a goalless draw in Piraeus, Croatia national football team booked a ticket for a tenth major competition final tournament, the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

GREECE - CROATIA 0:0 (0:0)
2018 FIFA World Cup play-offs, return leg.
Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus.

Referee: B. Kuipers (Netherlands)

Goals: -

Cautions: Tachtsidis (24') 

Croatia: Subašić, Strinić, Lovren, Vida, Vrsaljko, Brozović, Rakitić, Perišić (85' Rebić), Modrić (90+1' Mitrović), Mandžukić, N. Kalinić (78' Kramarić). Head coach: Z. Dalić.

Greece: Karnezis, Retsos, Manolas, Papastathopoulos, Torosidis, Tziolis, Tachtsidis, Zeca, Bakasetas (59' Gianniotas), Christodoulopoulos (59' Fortounis), Mitroglou (78' Pelkas). Head coach: M. Skibbe.

Following a promising 4:1 victory at Maksimir Stadium on Thursday, Croatia national football team held to a 0:0 draw away to Greece and achieved its objective, a place among the world's elite.

Croatia secured its fifth FIFA World Cup berth and tenth major competition final tournament, following the bronze medal in France '98 and group stage appearances in Japan/South Korea '02, Germany '06, and Brazil '14.

The Piraeus encounter, as expected, produced a tough, fighting match with significantly less scoring opportunities than the first leg. Papastathopoulos shot just wide on 17 minutes, with Rakitić and Perišić responding with efforts from the edge of the box. Subašić later intervened to stop a dangerous Greek move.

However, it was Perišić who provided the best chance of the half, hitting the woodwork on 42 minutes with a powerful effort from 20 metres.

The opening minutes of the second half produced more excitement on both sides, with Mitroglou's effort on 58 minutes being the most threatening.

Significantly, first Greek effort on target was recorded three minutes from time through Tachtsidis. Kramarić then tried to find the top Karnezis' corner, and nothing could endanger Croatia's World Cup dreams. 

On Sunday, Switzerland confirmed a World Cup ticket with a home goalless draw against Northern Ireland, after a 1:0 away win. In other European Qualifiers play-offs, Italy hosts Sweden on Monday, and Republic of Ireland host Denmark on Tuesday.

FIFA World Cup group stage draw is scheduled for 1 December in Moscow, with 32 teams to be drawn in eight groups.

12.11.2017.. Spectators: 18667
Referees: Bjorn Kuipers (NED), Sander van Roekel (NED), Erwin Zeinstra (NED)
Fourth referee: Danny Makkelie (NED)
1Orestis-Spyridon Karnezis23Danijel Subašić
4Konstantinos Manolas7Ivan Rakitić
6Alexandros Tziolis10Luka Modrić
7Lazaros Christodoulopoulos
2Šime Vrsaljko
8Jose Carlos Goncalves Rodrigues6Dejan Lovren
11Konstantinos Mitroglou
4Ivan Perišić
14Anastasios Bakasetas
3Ivan Strinić
15Vasileios Torosidis17Mario Mandžukić
16Panagiotis Retsos21Domagoj Vida
17Panagiotis Tachtsidis
11Marcelo Brozović
19Sokratis Papastathopoulos16Nikola Kalinić
12Stefanos Kapino12Lovre Kalinić
13Ioannis Anestis1Dominik Livaković
10Konstantinos Fortounis
18Filip Bradarić
18Ioannis Gionniotas
9Andrej Kramarić
20Dimitrios Pelkas
5Matej Mitrović
2Ioannis Maniatis14Ante Rebić
3Georgios Tzavellas20Mario Pašalić
5Kyriakos Papadopoulos22Josip Pivarić
9Dimitrios Diamantakos8Nikola Vlašić
21Konstantinos Stafylidis15Marko Rog
22Andreas Samaris19Marin Leovac
23Marios Oikonomou13Zoran Nižić
Michael-Heinz SkibbeZlatko Dalić

Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalić and vice-captain Ivan Rakitić held a press conference in Piraeus, on the eve of the FIFA World Cup play-offs return leg.

On Sunday, Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus hosts the 2018 FIFA World Cup play-offs return leg, with Croatia leading Greece 4:1, courtesy of a fine performance in Zagreb.

"Euphoria would lead us nowhere. We have to stay calm and achieve the objective. Should anyone think otherwise, things will take a wrong turn. However, our players are aware of their situation, of their job, and nothing is over yet. Yes, we could be a bit tired, but there is no choice and no excuse, since the World Cup is at stake. The players will be ready, since we fully respect Greece. It is not easy to concede only six goals in qualifying, but we expect a different kind of Greece. They have to search for a win and will do everything possible to achieve it", says Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalić.

"I hope that Mandžukić will be fit, he is very important to Croatia. We did not want to risk anything, and I prefer having players at 100 percent. Manolas is back for Greece to make them stronger, but the key remains in their entire team. There is no need for Croatia to change the approach, we are not used to defending. We came here to win and we regard this match as a final. Now it is up to us to prove quality - without players' quality, my tactics would be useless. I just provided them some help. They now have to complete the last step", he added.

Croatia vice-captain Ivan Rakitić recently visited Piraeus with Barcelona.

"Everybody knows the partisan atmosphere at this stadium, the pressure is enormous. It is nice to have a 4:1 lead, but this means nothing. Croatia has to seek a victory, against a very motivated hosts who want to make amends and put in their best performance. It will be tough, but we have to stick to our gameplan and prove once again that we are better than Greece. Greece remains a difficult opponent, and Croatia has to be at a top level, leaving nothing to chance. There are no second opportunities anymore, this is the last step towards the World Cup. We'll give our best", he says.

foto: HNS