Rugged draw gives Croatia Cup spot

PIRAEUS (Greece) • Croatia celebrated securing their fifth World Cup appearance after an away performance that was not pretty but professional.

They held Greece to a 0-0 draw in the second leg of their play-off in Piraeus for a 4-1 win on aggregate on Sunday.

"This was a really tough match. It was not a beauty, our supporters could have hardly enjoy that performance," defender Domagoj Vida told the Croatian Football Federation website.

"But the key was not to let Greece create goal-scoring opportunities."

His team did not register a shot on target but came close to scoring when a left-footed blast by Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic hit the post in the 43rd minute.

Greece were limited to just one shot on target from six attempts, even though they had 60 per cent of the possession.

"We have been talking, singing, and celebrating in the locker room, and now we have to move on," said defender Sime Vrsaljko. "We have done what was necessary to secure a World Cup berth, even though it was not very nice to watch."

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    Croatia failed to hit the target even once. Hosts Greece had only one shot on target out of six in the 0-0 draw.

For the first 30 minutes, Greece were in control. But they failed to get the much-needed early goal despite good shots from Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Anastasios Bakasetas.

They came close to scoring four minutes before half-time when a cross from Kostas Mitroglou found midfielder Zeca, who headed the ball in front of the goalmouth - only for goalkeeper Danijel Subasic to tip the ball away with Panagiotis Retsos ready to head in.

They did put the ball in the net in the 79th minute, but substitute Dimitris Pelkas was correctly called offside.

Bologna defender Vasilis Torosidis' shot was blocked by Subasic with just three minutes left, denying Greece a consolation strike.

"Unfortunately we had a very bad performance in Zagreb three days ago, and we paid for it," said Greece coach Michael Skibbe, who dropped half of his players after the disastrous first leg on Thursday, when they trailed 1-3 at half-time.

"We made too many mistakes then. "Tonight we were excellent and Croatia were not good.

"The previous match happened the other way around."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2017, with the headline 'Rugged draw gives Croatia Cup spot'. Subscribe