Croatia through to World Cup
Blazers’ bound for Russia with draw in Athens
Croatia qualified for the 2018 World Cup finals after a 0-0 draw in the second leg of the playoffs against Greece on Sunday.
With a considerable advantage from Thursday’s 4-1 victory in Zagreb, Croatia easily held off the Greek hosts as they pressed for an upset.
Croatia came closest to scoring in the 42nd minute when Ivan Perisic’s powerful shot ricocheted off Greece’s left post, with goalkeeper Orestis Karezis well beaten.
Greece came closest to scoring in the 87th when Panagiotis Tachtsidis’s shot from inside the area was deflected by goalkeeper Danijel Subasic’s legs.
Greece also had two shots go just wide — one by Sokratis Papastathopoulos in the first half and another by Costas Mitroglou in the second — but otherwise did not threaten.
Greece’s coach Michael Skibbe said the first leg had done the damage.
“On this level of football, it is not allowed to make mistakes like these,’’ said Skibbe, referring to Greece’s poor performance in Croatia.
It is the third time that Croatia has qualified for the World Cup finals through playoffs after also advancing this way to the 1998 and 2014 tournaments. Croatia has never lost in the playoffs, including two qualifications for the Euros.
Croatia’s domagoj Vida rises above Greece’s Kostas Mitroglou for a header on Sunday.