Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Prediction: Greece vs Croatia

Dan Steeden in Free Soccer Predictions, World Cup 11 Nov 2017

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Verdict: Croatia to win

Best Odds: 21/10

Bookmakers: Bet 365

Croatia travel to Greece for the second leg of the World Cup qualifier playoff tie between the two nations, and the result of this game will decide which team earns themselves a place in Russia next summer. The Croatians head into this game off the back of an impressive 4-1 home victory, while the Greeks struggled to get any sort of foothold in the game in Zagreb; their single goal coming very much against the run of play. It will take a gargantuan attacking effort from the home side to stand a chance of qualifying, but Greece is a nation well known for its defensive solidity rather than any sort of offensive prowess.

Greece

The home side face a colossal challenge as they look to overturn a three-goal deficit in the Karaiskakis Stadium. In truth Greece were downright awful in the first leg and were lucky to come away with both an away goal and only a 4-1 loss. Perhaps surprisingly Greece actually scored more goals throughout qualifying that Croatia did, netting 17 times in their 10 games, though their group did contain Estonia, Cyprus and Gibraltar. Worryingly though the Greeks only managed to score more than three goals on two occasions, both of which were against Gibraltar.

There are some positives for manager Michael Skibbe however as both Kostas Manolas and Vasilis Torosidis should return to the starting XI for this game. While both players are defenders it should help Greece minimise the goals scored against them, which in turn will allow them to go forward with more confidence. The bad news however is that there isn’t much Skibbe can change going forward, and even a more attacking line-up will likely struggle against a Croatia side that will play more conservatively in order to hold onto their lead.

Team News

After his side’s dreadful performance in Zagreb, Michael Skibbe will likely make some changes. Veteran defender Vasilis Torosidis should return from injury to feature in this game, and Roma centre half Kostas Manolas eligible again after suspension.

Croatia

The Croatians clearly outclassed their Greek opposition in Zagreb, but they were helped by some calamitous and frankly embarrassing defending at times. Interestingly Zlatko Dalic’s side actually struggled for goals somewhat in qualifying, scoring 15 times in 10 games in a group that included Kosovo. However the first leg exemplified just how good they can be going forward, and the famous names amongst their ranks really stepped up when needed. The fact that four different players got on the score sheet is highly encouraging, and Greece simply couldn’t deal with their quality.

The second leg will provide a different test however as Croatia will need to hold on to a lead and work out the risk vs reward value of pushing for more goals. The biggest positive from their qualifying campaign was arguably the fact that they conceded just four goals; the lowest in Group I. This statistic alone will stand them in good stead heading into Sunday’s game, as will the fact that Greece managed just three shots on target in Zagreb.

Team News

Despite a few of their players being one yellow card away from suspension Croatia came away from Thursday night’s game with a perfect disciplinary record. Thankfully for Zlatko Dalic his side also avoided picking up any injuries, so Croatia’s team could remain unchanged going into the second leg.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Croatia won the reverse fixture between the two sides 4-1.
  • Croatia took 17 shots in the home leg, nine of which were on target.
  • Greece managed just three shots on target away from home, one of which was a goal.
  • Four different players scored for Croatia in the home leg, highlighting the talented throughout their squad.
  • Croatia dominated the possession stats in the first leg, seeing 59% of the ball.

Conclusion

Croatia exhibited their frightening attacking talent in the first leg and there was an obvious gulf in class between the two sides. Greece really struggled to create anything going forward, and their famous defence made multiple errors that were capitalised on by the Croatian forwards. While Greece will need to go for it in this game it is difficult to see how they will create much given how poor they were in Zagreb. The visitors may want to keep this game tight but they have too much class not to edge out a win here.

Verdict: Croatia to win

Best Odds: 21/10

Bookmakers: Bet 365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Steeden


Dan is a recent graduate of the University of Birmingham and an often frustrated Wigan Athletic fan. When not despairing at events unfolding at the DW Stadium he can be found fangirling over Antoine Griezmann or staying up into the early hours of the morning to cheer on the Seattle Seahawks.

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nice informative piece Dan

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