Croatia vs Greece Preview:
Probable starting lineups:
Subasic; Vida, Lovren, Mitrovic, Vrsaljko; Rakitic, Brozovic; Kramaric, Modric, Perisic; Mandzukic
Karnezis; Torosidis, Sokratis, Papadopoulous, Stafylidis; Tachtsidis, Zeca; Christodoulopoulos, Fortounis, Samaris; Mitroglu
Croatia were part of the very difficult Group I. They finished as second, behind Iceland, while Turkey and Ukraine were eliminate. The last round decided the runners up after Croatia managed to beat the Ukrainians with 2:0 and secured this playoff spot. Since their debut in France 1998, Croatia have qualified for every World Cup but one. Playing at this stage is something "normal" for them. They become some sort of knock-out specialists and their four qualifications via play-offs is a record. Croatia have eliminated Iceland with 3:1 aggregate result (WC 1998), Slovenia with 2:1 aggregate (EURO 2004), Turkey with 3:0 aggregate victory (EURO 2012) and Iceland (2:0 on aggregate) in the qualifications for World Cup 2014. For this match coach Zlatko Dalic has no important missing players. But his inexperience could be a problem. As You probably know, Dalic replaced Ante Cacic few days before the crucial match in qualifications against Ukraine. The 50-year-old tactician has previously managed UAE sides Al Ain and Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia.
Greece were solid throughout qualification, but Belgium were simply too strong. The former European champions finished as second, two points in front of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Greek side lost just once during the qualifications, but played four draws, including one against poor Estonia. Interesting, this will be the third consecutive World Cup play-off for them. Greece secured participation in South Africa 2010 after beat Ukraine and also in Brazil 2014 after beat Romania. They could become the first European national team to reach three World Cups in a row via the play-offs. But coach Michael Skibbe has one big concern ahead of this match. The key central defender Kostas Manolas is banned and his absence is a huge handicap. Interesting, the Roma defender has earn the suspension after FIFA ruled he deliberately got himself booked in the penultimate group match. In addition, Stuttgart forward Tasos Donis and AEK Athens midfielder Petros Mantolas are struggling with injuries.
Croatia and Greece have played four competitive matches so far. Both games played in Croatia have finished with low scoring draws. Look the results:
07.09.2010. Croatia v Greece 0:0
10.11.1996. Croatia v Greece 1:1
Croatia vs Greece Prediction:
Croatia are closer to the victory. First of all, they have the home advantage. I expect a full Stadium Maksimir and great support from home fans. Croatia have excellent players, like Luka Modric from Real Madrid, Ivan Rakitic from Barcelona, Mario Mandzukic from Juventus etc. The quality is on their side, no doubt about that. Greece are without their key defender Kostas Manolas due to suspension and that's a huge handicap. Croatia should take advantage after the first match.
Croatia vs Greece Pick: Home win