Croa­tia through to World Cup

Blaz­ers’ bound for Rus­sia with draw in Athens

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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.

Yor­gos Kara­halis/the associated Press

Croa­tia’s do­magoj Vida rises above Greece’s Kostas Mitroglou for a header on Sun­day.

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