Football: Greece coach angered by Manolas play-off ban

Greece's defender Kostas Manolas (right) attempts to clear the ball as he is marked by Cyprus' forward Pieros Sotiriou during their World Cup 2018 qualifying Group H football match between Cyprus and Greece at the NEO GSP Stadium in Nicosia on Oct 7,
Greece's defender Kostas Manolas (right) attempts to clear the ball as he is marked by Cyprus' forward Pieros Sotiriou during their World Cup 2018 qualifying Group H football match between Cyprus and Greece at the NEO GSP Stadium in Nicosia on Oct 7, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

ATHENS (AFP) - Greece coach Michael Skibbe blasted FIFA's decision to ban Roma defender Kostas Manolas from Thursday's World Cup play-off first leg away to Croatia for "intentionally seeking a yellow card".

"What FIFA did was not right. FIFA sometimes takes some 'special' decisions. And this is "special'," Skibbe told reporters on Monday (Nov 6).

FIFA's disciplinary committee on Friday handed Manolas a one-match suspension after he was adjudged to have deliberately got himself booked for time wasting in Greece's 2-1 win in Cyprus last month.

That yellow card triggered a ban which Manolas served in Greece's final group game - a 4-0 victory over Gibraltar - but the 26-year-old will now also miss the trip to Zagreb.

"I do not know how that was decided. We were ahead of Cyprus 2-1 and in the last few minutes every team around the world lets some players get a yellow card for delaying," Skibbe said.

"So Manolas got a yellow card and did not play against Gibraltar. And now FIFA has decided four weeks later to punish him for something that all players do." Even without Manolas in the starting line-up and despite some injuries, Skibbe said his team will be ready for the encounter with Croatia.

"We will be ready, we have been working for the last two years to go to Russia. Croatia has a good team but we will do our best with the players we have to qualify," he said.