Thursday 9 Nov

Croatia vs Greece - Match Preview

08 Nov 2017 Ed Mackey INTERNATIONAL: World Cup Qualification, UEFA Playoffs
INTERNATIONAL: World Cup Qualification, UEFA Playoffs

Croatia

  • L
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • W

vs

Kick-off
19:45 GMT
09 November 2017

Greece

  • D
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • W

Kick-off
19:45 GMT 09 November 2017

Europe’s domestic fixtures are disrupted once again for yet another international break but for many teams, it is a very important. After the qualifying groups concluded last month for the FIFA World Cup next year, we still need to find out some of the sides who will be competing. Two of the nations are Croatia and Greece and the first leg of their World Cup play-off takes place on Thursday before they return to Greece for the second-leg on Sunday evening.

STATS

  • It was a disappointing qualifying campaign for Croatia as they failed to secure top spot in Group I, where they were huge favourites to take the automatic place. They were beaten to it by a very courageous Iceland side, who were never expected to challenge for a place in Russia next summer. They were beaten away from home in the group by the group winners and Turkey, the former costing them their chance of automatic qualification.
  • Greece, on the other hand, will be very happy with a place in the World Cup playoffs as they finished behind Belgium in Group H. Bosnia and Herzegovina may have been seen as stronger than the 2004 Euro winners so they did very well to ensure they still have a shot at booking a place. They managed to pick up a very good point away from home in Belgium, just one of their great results in the group.
  • The performance of Mario Mandzukic was one positive aspect of Croatia’s qualifying period and with five goals, he was their top goal scorer. He won’t feature in the match against Greece.
  • Konstantinos Mitroglou was in great form for Greece during the qualifying campaign and only Romelu Lukaku managed more goals in Group H.

HEAD TO HEAD

Croatia haven’t got a good history against Greece in the six meetings they have had. They have won just once while the Greeks have won twice, the other three ended as draws. They were drawn in the same qualifying group for the 2012 European Championships and Greece won their home match while the match in Zagreb ended goalless. This is the only goalless draw in the six previous matches between the two sides, the other five produced 14 goals.

CROATIA NEWS

With their squad, there’s no doubt that Croatia should have a place at the World Cup but their lacklustre performances have led to a play-off place. One of their most influential players, Mandzukic might not be available for the first-leg and he is joined on the injury on the injury table by Milan Badelj. They already have enough quality in midfield with Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic.

Latest matches: Croatia

09.10.2017 Worl Ukraine Croatia 0:2 W
06.10.2017 Worl Croatia Finland 1:1 D
05.09.2017 Worl Turkey Croatia 1:0 L
02.09.2017 Worl Croatia Kosovo 1:0 W
11.06.2017 Worl Iceland Croatia 1:0 L

GREECE NEWS

Greece have come this far and they will be gutted to see their hopes of qualification dashed at the final stage. They will be hoping to see Vasilis Torosidis and Sokratis Papastathopoulos start after their respective injuries. One player that will definitely miss out is Roma defender, Kostas Manolas, who is suspended for the first-leg.

Latest matches: Greece

10.10.2017 Worl Greece Gibraltar 4:0 W
07.10.2017 Worl Cyprus Greece 1:2 W
03.09.2017 Worl Greece Belgium 1:2 L
31.08.2017 Worl Greece Estonia 0:0 D
09.06.2017 Worl Bosnia & Herzegovina Greece 0:0 D

SUMMARY

This is one of the four play-off matches for the final places at next year’s World Cup but it isn’t expected to be one of the more entertaining ones as both nations are prided on their defensive solidity. Croatia are big favourites to win over both legs and they will need to take advantage of the home first-leg. Despite being without Mandzukic, they shouldn’t struggle too much in securing the first-leg victory.

About the author - Ed Mackey

Experienced sports writer and huge Leicester City fan.

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