April 18, 2021, 4:16

Croatia shut down Greek attack to secure World Cup place

Croatia shut down Greek attack to secure World Cup place

Greece 0 Croatia 0 (Croatia win 4-1 on aggregate)

Croatia comfortably negotiated the second leg of their play-off tie against Greece with a goalless draw sealing their place at next summer’s World Cup.

Leading 4-1 from the home leg in Croatia, Zlatko Dalic’s team never got out of second gear – but then they did not need to against a Greece side who lacked ideas going forward and who took until the 86th minute to muster a shot on target.

Zlatko Dalic

Greece were much improved and had plenty of possession but lacked the quality to do anything with it and pose a threat. Croatia seemed content to sit back and protect their three-goal lead.

Despite their advantage from the first leg Dalic named a strong team and made just one change, with Mario Mandzukic replacing Andrej Kramaric up front, while Greece boss Michael Skibbe swapped six players.

The hosts started the game at a quick tempo without ever troubling Croatia, who eventually managed to get their foot on the ball and slow the pace right down.

Greece felt they should have had a penalty after 11 minutes when Jose Carlos Zeca went down under the challenge of Ivan Strinic but the referee waved away the appeals. Sokratis Papastathopoulos then went close with a volley that drifted just wide.

Croatia looked dangerous for the first time midway through the first half when Ivan Perisic skipped past a challenge and cut into the penalty area before dragging his low shot wide.

The Inter Milan playmaker went closer just before half-time when his 25-yard effort struck a post with goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis well beaten.

It was a rare occasion that Croatia stepped out of second gear while at the other end of the pitch a stubborn defence continued to frustrate Greece.

The hosts continued to see a lot of the ball but you could see that belief draining from them as the minutes ticked by.

With Greece still needing three goals, Skibbe made an attacking substitution just before the hour mark by introducing Kostas Fortounis and Giannis Gianniotas from the bench but it was to little avail.

A third substitute, on with just 12 minutes remaining, Dimitrious Pelkas thought he had made an immediate impact by pulling a goal back but he was flagged offside.

Danijel Subasic was actually given some work to do for the first, and only, time in the game four minutes from time when Panagiotis Tachtsidis shot tamely at him.

Source: breakingnews.ie

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