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Croatia - Greece

Croatia 4-1 Greece World Cup 2018 play-off: match report, goals, action

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ZAGREB, CROATIA - NOVEMBER 09: Luka Modric (L) of Croatia celebrates scoring a goal during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: First Leg between Croatia and Greece at Stadion Maksimir on November 9, 2017 in Zagreb, Croatia (Photo by Srdjan Stevano
Srdjan StevanovicGetty Images

Croatia 4-1 Greece: match report

Croatia cruised to a 4-1 victory over Greece in their World Cup play-off first leg on Thursday to move to the brink of a spot at next year's finals in Russia.

Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric opened the scoring in Zagreb from the penalty spot in the 13th minute, with Nikola Kalinic flicking in a second just six minutes later.

Centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos gave the visitors hope on the half-hour mark, but Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic powered in a close-range header before the interval and Andrej Kramaric wrapped up a comfortable win for Ante Cacic's side.

Croatia, who finished a disappointing second in Group I behind Iceland, are looking to qualify for their fifth World Cup since 1998.

Dejan Lovren during training
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Dejan Lovren during trainingANTONIO BRONICREUTERS

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The last stage of World Cup qualifying starts this weekend with the final names going into the play-off hat this weekend to decide the final line-up for Russia 2018. Croatia and Greece kick-off on Thursday November 8 at 20:45 CEST at Stadion Maksimir before Croatia take the show on the road for the second leg in Greece on Sunday.

There will be no away fans in either stadium after the two football federations agreed it would be best to avoid any more trouble after riots in 2011 between the two sets of fans.

"The leaderships of the HNS and the Greek Football Association have agreed in Athens today that there will be no away fans section in either of the two legs of the World Cup playoff tie between the two teams. Having taken into consideration the risk factors and the security assessments, both football associations have made a joint decision not to sell any tickets to the away fans in either match. FIFA, UEFA and other governing bodies have been notified of the decision," read a statement on the decision.


Dejan Lovren is in contention for a start after recovering in time to come on as a sub for Liverpool against West Ham last weekend. Vedran Corluka, Mateo Kovacic and Milan Badelj are all unavailable, however, for Zlatko Dalic.

The home side in the first leg were beaten in qualifying by Iceland, who continue in their rise up the international ranks, but Dalic will be happy with drawing Greece as they look for another route towards qualifying. They lost to Turkey and Iceland as they slipped up in the group stages and drew with Finland too but they hope to put their relatively poor form to the side over 180 minutes against the Greeks.

The Croats have a good blend of talent and it would be a travesty if they did not qualify but their failure to gel as a team and play with the necessary inspiration and intensity hurt them throughout qualifying. Any team boasting the likes of Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic, Marcelo Brozovic and Luka Modric would expect to be qualifying for almost every tournament and despite the turmoil that seems to follow this team around, they will hope to make it to Russia in 2018 and prove their worth in the World Cup.


Kostas Manolas is suspended for Greece manager Michael Skibbe but he has options with Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Sokratis possibly partnering up in the centre of defense while Petros Mantolas, the left-midfield man will also be missing on Thursday night due to a cruciate knee ligament injury.

Belgium walked their group in first place and with nine points to spare but Greece were the best of the rest with a 4-1 victory against Gibraltar and a 4-0 loss for Bosnia and Herzegovina against Belgium sealing second spot for them.


There has been less than 2.5 goals in all eight of Croatia's most recent games and you can get over 1.5 for your euro if you take that option. Meanwhile, Greece are undefeated in 12 of their last 13 games and that is almost 3/1 right now with Bet365.


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