Hostile Atmosphere awaits Greece in Zagreb
A hostile atmosphere is expected in Zagreb when Greece visit for the first leg of their FIFA World Cup play-off tie against Croatia…
A partisan crowd is expected to pack the Stadion Maksimir on Thursday night as Greece visit Zagreb for the first leg of their FIFA World Cup play-off tie against Croatia.
A mutual decision shortly after the playoff round draw saw both the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) and the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) agree to prevent any travelling supporters for either leg of the tie.
Although Greece and Croatia don’t have a long list of previous encounters in competitive action, the tension surrounding the last meeting between the two sides at Karaiskaki – the scene of Sunday’s second leg – is expected to motivate the Croatian support.
Both sets of supporters clashed in the stands during Greece’s 2-0 win in Piraeus in 2011; with objects such as flares and broken seats seen hurled in opposite directions within the crowd.
A near-capacity crowd is anticipated at the 35,123-capacity Stadion Maksimir, which also hosts NK Dinamo Zagreb and fellow Croatian First Football League outfit NK Lokomotiva Zagreb.
Greece are no strangers to the Stadion Maksimir having previously faced Croatia in the same ground during qualification for UEFA Euro 2012. On that night, Croatia held Greece to a 0-0 draw – a result that Greece manager won’t mind taking to the second leg in Piraeus on Sunday.
Greece also travelled to Zagreb during their qualifying campaign for the 1998 World Cup, with two sides playing out a 1-1 draw courtesy of goals from Croatia’s Davor Suker and Greece striker Demis Nikolaidis.
Those were the scenes that both football federations wanted to avoid when they reached the decision to eliminate travelling supporters.
A passionate travelling crowd for Greece’s qualifiers certainly did its part during the group stage of qualifying as Greece went unbeaten in their travels – including a 1-1 draw in Belgium, and a 0-0 stalemate in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A solid away effort from Greece on Friday could go a long way in determining who will clinch a berth in Russia next summer come Sunday evening