Greece Versus Croatia: A Tight Series Which Brings Hope
Ahead of Greece’s two-legged playoff with Croatia for the right to head to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, AGONAsport takes a look at the prior history with the Ethniki’s playoff rivals.
Greece and Croatia have met on six previous occasions with Greece holding a slight advantage with two wins to Croatia’s one and three matches ending in draws. The two teams first met as part of the qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup. In those pair of fixtures, Greece earned a 1-1 draw in Zagreb with Croatia winning the reverse fixture 1-0.
Two friendlies followed for the two sides. Greece won the first at home in 1999, 3-2. Two years later in April 2001, the two teams played out a 2-2 draw in Croatia.
The last time the two countries met was as part of the EURO 2012 qualifiers. A 0-0 draw was the result in Croatia in September 2010. In October 2011, Greece won 2-0 on their way to booking a spot at EURO 2012.
Undoubtedly, this has been a close series, but Greece can be confident looking ahead to these upcoming matches by looking back. A Greek side that is serious and focused has nothing to fear even against a team full of superb, individual quality.
Below is a game-by-game breakdown of Greece’s clashes with their Croatian counterparts.
10-Nov-96: Croatia-Greece 1-1 ('98 World Cup Qualifier)
In the first-ever meeting between the two countries, Greece and Croatia played out a 1-1 draw in Zagreb in a qualifier for France ‘98. Demis Nikolaidis gave the visitors the early lead with his 9th minute goal. Croatia drew level just before the half through Davor Suker’s strike. That’s how it finished in what was a valuable point gained by Greece.
30-Apr-97: Greece-Croatia 0-1 ('98 World Cup Qualifier)
In a crucial qualifier in Thessaloniki, Croatia dealt Greece a massive blow to their World Cup hopes. Suker was the man again for Croatia as his 74th minute goal won the game and saw Croatia take a gigantic step toward World Cup qualification. This victory remains Croatia’s lone win over Greece.
10-Mar-00: Greece-Croatia 3-2 (Friendly)
In a wild five-goal friendly, Greece exacted some small revenge for their defeat two years earlier. At the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Suker proved to be a thorn in the side of Greece once again as the legendary striker scored a brace. However, the Ethniki persevered and came out 3-2 winners thanks to Stelios Giannakopoulos’ two goals and an additional strike from Nikolaidis.
25-Apr-01: Croatia-Greece 2-2 (Friendly)
Another high-scoring friendly followed two years later back in Croatia. The hosts equalized at the death to earn the 2-2 draw. The star for Greece that day was Alekos Alexandris who bagged a brace.
7-Sep-10: Croatia-Greece 0-0 (EURO '12 Qualifier)
In a match that followed Greece’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Georgia, the Ethniki went searching for a big result in Croatia. The found it with a 0-0 draw. The performance was a typical back-to-the-wall defensive masterpiece led by Sokratis Papastathopoulos at the back. Greece showed they had nothing to fear against a side that included names such as Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
7-Oct-11: Greece-Croatia 2-0 (EURO '12 Qualifier)
In a decisive qualifier in Piraeus at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, Fernando Santos’ Greece put forth a solid display and ran out 2-0 winners. The three points allowed the team to take a big step toward qualification for EURO 2012. Giorgos Karagounis set up both goals from free-kicks in the 71st and 78th minutes as Georgios Samaras and Fanis Gekas converted to give the full house at the Karaiskakis something to cheer about.