Croatia snatched a goalless draw in Greece on Sunday and grabbed the all-important ticket to the World Cup finals of 2018 with a 4-1 aggregate score, due to Greece’s miserable performance in the first leg in Zagreb on Thursday.
Over 20,000 Greece fans were at the stands of the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, seeing a significantly improved national team pressurize the Croats, although it lacked the edge that would have made the difference.
Greece manager Michael Skibbe changed more than half of his starting line-up, bringing in Vassilis Torosidis, Panayiotis Retsos, Costas Manolas, Panayiotis Tachtsidis, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Tasos Bakasetas. His 4-2-3-1 formation worked much better than the initial 3-6-1 of Zagreb three nights earlier.
In the first 45 minutes Greece was fairly solid in defense and creative in attack, but its few chances were not so threatening for the Croatia goal.
Papastathopoulos, Zeca and Retsos came close but they were unable to open the score and give Greece some hope, while Mitroglou was not a threat at all for the Croats.
The first half’s best moment fell to Croatia on the 42nd minute when Ivan Perisic tried a screamer that came off the left post of Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis.
Mitroglou then saw his 58th-minute shot breeze just wide of the upright of Danijel Subasic before getting substituted 20 minutes on having injured his back. His replacement Dimitris Pelkas had a goal correctly disallowed as offside.
Tachtsidis had Greece’s best shot in the second half on the 87th minute, but Subasic rose to the challenge once again.
A minute later Andrej Kramaric had a good shot miss the target for Croatia, that is now looking forward to the December 1 World Cup finals draw.