Superior Croatia to finish the job in Athens
Greece set to slip out
World Cup playoff second leg
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm Sunday
Croatia were one of the strongest nations to miss out on automatic qualification for the World Cup but they showed their class on Thursday, defeating Greece 4-1 in Zagreb, and they can finish the job with a victory in Athens.
The Greeks like to build from a solid defensive base and wanted to keep the tie in the balance for as long as possible.
But their plans went out of the window from the moment goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis clumsily gave away a penalty in the 11th minute.
Greece will be stronger for the second leg with Roma centre-back Kostas Manolas available after suspension.
But they are going to have to take some risks and are likely to leave themselves exposed against a technically superior Croatia side who could make an impact at Russia 2018.
Croatia achieved their first-leg success without first-choice centre-forward Mario Mandzukic, who was ruled out with a hamstring problem.
His replacement Nikola Kalinic added the second goal in the 19th minute and Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric scored further goals to put Zlatko Dalic's side in command of the tie.
Dalic took charge for the first time when Croatia posted a crucial 2-0 victory away to Ukraine last month and his methods already seem to be getting much more out of the players than those of his predecessor, Ante Cacic.
Greece are unfortunate to have run into a Croatia team who seem to be in a far better place than they were just two months ago and do not possess the firepower to get out of trouble.
Over the last eight years they have won just two matches by more than two goals and both of those were against Gibraltar – 4-1 in Faro in September 2016 and 4-0 in Athens last month.
1pt 6-5 Betfred, Paddy Power
Petros Mantalos is injured but Kostas Manolas returns after a suspension.
Mario Mandzukic (hamstring) is a doubt and injured quartet Tin Jedvaj, Milan Badelj, Mateo Kovacic and Vedran Corluka were ruled out of the original squad.
Croatia have won seven of their last ten competitive fixtures.
Follow us on Twitter @racingpostsport
Like us on Facebook RacingPostSport