Croatia vs Greece preview

November 7, 2017
By: Nemanja Lazarevic

Star-studded Croatia side will have to try and reach Russia via the play-offs after making a mess out of their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Greece, on the other hand, were somewhat fortunate not to get eliminated in the group stage, and it remains to be seen whether they can produce another upset.

The Croatian national team have been struggling to live up to the billing for quite some time, and Ante Cacic clearly wasn’t the man to take this side forward.

It took the national team bosses quite a while to wake up and smell the coffee, and they decided to sack the head coach ahead of the final qualifier against Ukraine.

Zlatko Delic was another surprise appointment, but the change clearly produced good results as Vatreni defeated Ukraine on the road in the crucial WC qualifier and thus secured their place in the play-offs.

Croatia are seen as overwhelming favourites to defeat Greece in a two-legged tie, but they will have to work hard for a place at the tournament finals, no doubt about it.

New boss Zlatko Delic faces some selection problems as three players miss out through injury, while Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic is rated doubtful, but the hosts, nonetheless, have more than enough quality to see off Greece in the first leg.

Croatia have won three of five 2018 WC qualifiers at home (D2), conceding just two goals, but they did score just six goals in the process, which is hardly an enviable record.

Mateo Kovacic, Vedran Corluka and Milan Badelj all miss out through injury, whereas Mario Mandzukic is struggling with a muscle problem.

Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Subasic – Vida, Mitrovic, Lovren, Strinic – Rakitic, Modric – Kramaric, Brozovic, Perisic – Mandzukic.

The shock 2004 European Championship winners have never even come close to repeating the success since, but they did reach the last two World Cup finals.

Greece now have the opportunity to make it three in a row after finishing second in Group H and narrowly avoiding becoming the only second-placed side to be eliminated.

Ethniki had a pretty good start to the new qualifying campaign, defeating Gibraltar, Cyprus and Estonia, but then embarked on a five-match run that seriously damaged their qualifying chances.

However, back to back wins over Cyprus and Gibraltar proved enough for a play-off berth and set up a clash with very good Croatia.

Compared to October qualifiers, the likes of Petros Mantalos, Manolis Siopis and Tasos Donis have been left out, but all key men have been included.

Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Karnezis – Torosidis, Manolas, Papastathopoulos, Stalyfidis – Zeca, Tachtsidis – Christodoulopoulos, Fortounis, Mandalos – Mitroglou.

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