World Cup Qualifying: Croatia vs Greece preview

Greece visit Croatia on Thursday evening in the first leg of their World Cup Qualifying Play-Off tie at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb. The Greeks have never won on Croatian soil but they never lost either, all the three previous encounters in Croatia ended in draws. Croatia won only one of the six meetings against Greece, including friendly matches, while Greece were able to overcome their opponents on two occasions. The last encounters were in the qualification campaign for Euro 2012 and Greece secured a goalless draw in Croatia before a 2-0 victory at home.

Croatia had to fight for their place in the play-offs until the very last group match, they were tied with Ukraine on 17 points but managed to beat them 2-0 to secure second spot behind surprise package Iceland. Their record away from home in the group stage was what hindered them in the race for top spot as they lost both in Iceland and in Turkey. Central defender Dejan Lovren is not fully fit after having recently recovered from an injury, but he did play a few minutes at the weekend for Liverpool and he should be included in the first eleven.

After a terrible qualification campaign for Euro 2016, in which they finished last in their group with just one victory in ten matches, Greece have managed to mount a serious challenge in their World Cup Qualifying group. It's true that they were unable to put runaway group leaders Belgium in difficulty, but they lost just one of their ten matches and conceded just six goals. Central defender Kostas Manolas is suspended for this match, but he will be available to play in the second leg.

Probable line-ups:

Croatia: Subasic - Vrsaljko, Vida, Lovren, Pivaric - Modric, Rakitic - Brozovic, Kramaric, Perisic - Mandzukic

Greece: Karnezis - Torosidis, Sokratis, Papadopoulos, Tzavellas - Zeca, Samaris, Tziolis, Stafylidis - Fortounis - Mitroglou

My prediction: Croatia to win 1-0.

Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:

Croatia win - 1.36
Draw - 4.59
Greece win - 13.00

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