Croatia look to extend perfect playoff record in key WCQ games against Greece
In just a few days time, we will find out whether Greece or Croatia have qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. While Greece’s playoff record suggests that the Ethniki should be confident, Croatia’s statistics in these games aren’t bad either.
The Croatians have been involved in many playoff fixtures over the years, qualifying for the final tournament on every occasion without fail. Their first experience of these matches came in 1997, as they defeated Ukraine 3:1 on aggregate (2:0 in the first leg, 1:1 in the second) to qualify for the World Cup in France. Interestingly, Greece beat the Ukrainians on their way to the 2010 World Cup.
Croatia waited until 2003 for their next playoff challenge, seeing off Slovenia 2:1 to make Euro 2004. The two teams drew the first leg 1:1, before Croatia edged the second 1:0. They had to go through the playoff stage again for Euro 2012 (Greece left them second in the group stage), comfortably beating Turkey 3:0. All of the goals came in the first leg away from home.
Their most recent playoff experience was witnessed in qualification for the 2014 World Cup. Iceland were the opponents, but once again Croatia had little problem in easing through, scoring two goals in the second leg to earn a 2:0 aggregate victory. Overall, Croatia have competed in eight separate playoff games, not losing a single one and conceding only two goals in the process. Nevertheless, a determined Greece side will be aiming to break that tradition this week.