ATHENS • Greece coach Michael Skibbe blasted Fifa's decision to ban Roma defender Kostas Manolas from the first leg of the World Cup play-off away to Croatia tomorrow for "intentionally seeking a yellow card".
"What Fifa did was not right. Fifa sometimes takes some 'special' decisions. And this is 'special'," he told reporters on Monday.
Fifa's disciplinary committee on Friday handed Manolas a one-match ban 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 suspension which the 26-year-old served in Greece's final group game - a 4-0 win over Gibraltar.
It was also supposed to wipe his slate clean but he will now miss the trip to Zagreb. Had he picked up a yellow card against Gibraltar instead of Cyprus, he would have missed tomorrow's game.
"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 added.
"Manolas got a yellow card and didn't play against Gibraltar. Now Fifa has decided four weeks later to punish him for something that all players do."
His opposite number has already predicted that Hamburg's Kyriakos Papadopoulos will fill the void left by Manolas.
"Manolas will be replaced by Papadopoulos, who is also tough, responsible and aggressive," Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic told the Croatian Football Federation website.
"Greece have their problem, but they will accept no excuses.
"In Zagreb, they will try to defend and keep a clean sheet, with long balls, counter-attacks, and set pieces in offence. We have to be careful, their style of play is dangerous, and we have to stay calm, concentrated, patient and smart."