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Greece v Croatia 2018 World Cup Play-Off: match report, goals, action

The damage was done in the first leg when Croatia won 4-1 as neither team scored in the second leg and Croatia book their place in the World Cup.
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Update:
PIRAEUS, GREECE - NOVEMBER 12:  Kostas Fortounis of Greece and Mario Mandzukic of Croatia in action during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: Second Leg between Greece and Croatia at Karaiskakis Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Piraeus, .  (Photo
Catherine IvillGetty Images

Greece 0-0 Croatia: match report

Greece had all the work to do in the second leg of the World Cup qualifier after losing 4-1 in Zagrab on Thursday night. They needed three goals to come back from that beating but they couldn't even manage one as Croatia managed the game perfectly with everything on the line.

Michael Skibbe made six changes to the side that took to the field in Zagreb including three of his four defenders, one midfielder and two more attacking midfielders. It made little difference, however, as Croatia were unwilling to be adventurous enough to allow the hosts back into the tie.

Greece's greatest weapon in the first leg was from the set-piece as they scored one, and nearly another, from that source. Croatia had done their homework this time as Sokratis, the target more often than not, was surrounded and breathing space around the six-yard box restricted. They barely troubled the travelling Croatians.

In the end, it was a tame effort from Greece at getting back into it and they scarcely challenged Sokratis. They will be happy with how the second leg went despite not looking dangerous themselves as they get the chance to attack all they like next summer in Russia while Greece will be watching at home.

Greece v Croatia live stream online: as it happened

Greece v Croatia live stream online: preview

Croatia made short work of Thursday’s first leg in Zagreb, racing to a 3-1 lead within the first half hour. Zlatko Dalić’s team goes into tonight’s game with a three-goal advantage and while they are the clear favourites to stamp their place at the finals, they won’t see the tie as done and dusted. Greece lost just once at home in the group stage – by the bare minimum to Belgium with goals exchanged in a rapid-fire, four minute spell in September, and interestingly, at tonight’s venue.

Croatia were pipped to top spot in their group by Iceland, and actually ended with a better goal difference. Dalić has only been in the job a few weeks but he has already managed to breathe a new impetus into the side. The team is unbeaten under his short tenure and with their self-esteem sky high after last week’s win.

Michael Skibbe’s Greece will need to be a little more adventurous than they were in Zagreb last week if they are to post a memorable turnaround. The German coach is expected to do away with his 3-5-1-1 set-up and throw caution to the wind as his side has to attack to have any chance of turning this Play-Off around. The German coach admitted as much in his pre-match press briefing: “Considering the result from the first leg, we have to change our system. I can’t enter into any more details – it’s a tall order but we have one game to rectify our situation and we will have to play at our very best. Whatever the outcome in Piraeus this evening, ex-Hertha boss Skibbe doesn’t feel he will have overseen his last game in charge of Greece, “but we’ll see” he told reporters…

Greece team news

Seasoned centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos is confident that he has shaken off the ankle injury that forced him to sit out the first leg. Kostas Manolas is available again after serving a one-match ban while left-back Vasilis Torosidis is believed to be over his fitness problems. Anastasios Donis is ruled out with a dislocated shoulder and Petros Mantolas has an ACL tear. Skibbe will make wholesale changes to the side that lost the first leg which could mean opportunity knocks for Dimitris Diamantakos and Valladolid man, Giannis Gianniotas.

Croatia team news

Zlatko Dalić insisted that he won’t be going for a defensive approach to protect his side’s three-goal cushion. “We’ll be treating it as though the score is 0-0”. Milan Badelj is out after suffering a Grade I thigh injury and ex-Atleti striker Mario Mandzukić will undergo a late fitness test as doctors will assess the hamstring he pulled in training over the weekend. On a more positive note, Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Ivan Perišić and Marcelo Brozović are all fighting fit and expected to start.

Greece v Croatia selected betting odds:

For Greece to perform a seemingly impossible heroic comeback and give themselves an excuse to dig out their Russian phrasebook, they must beat Croatia by three goals or more. A 4-1 win would take the game to penalties. That said, the only teams who have managed to do that in past four years were Mexico and Brazil during the last World Cup and Estonia in a friendly which all of their star players were excused from, the bookies have calibrated their odds accordingly. Croatia are 11/4 favourites to become the last European team to book their place at the finals. But miracles can and do happen in football, for Greece to win 3-0 is at 40/1 and 66/1 to win 4-1 and take it to pens.

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