Croatia to gain vital World Cup play-off advantage

On Thursday night, Croatia and Greece clash in Zagreb in the World Cup play-off first leg encounter.

Croatia have underachieved in recent years and once again produced rather disappointing results in World Cup qualifying to finish second in their group to Iceland.

Defeats in Iceland and Turkey, coupled with a home draw against Finland put pay to Zlatko Dalic’s team securing the automatic qualification spot.

Croatia’s qualifiers were low scoring, with under 2.5 goals scored in nine of their ten games, including their last game a 2-0 win in Ukraine.

The home side do have a respectable home record when it comes to the World Cup qualifiers, as they are now unbeaten in six qualifiers in the countries capital. Their home qualifiers have been very low scoring, with under 2.5 goals scored in 11 of their 12 games on home soil.

The home side are definitely not the great entertainers of European football that is for sure.

Greece heads into this game having lost just one of their last 13 games in World Cup qualifying. Michael Skibbe’s side only defeat in qualifying came against eventual group winners Belgium, as they suffered a 2-1 defeat in Piraeus.

The visitors finished the group campaign off with wins over Cyprus and Gibraltar. However, a run of draws against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium and Estonia hampered their chances of securing the automatic qualification spot.

Just like the hosts, Greece have were involved in a lot of low scoring games in qualifying, with six of their ten qualifiers producing under 2.5 goals.

Greece have a very good away record on their travels in World Cup qualifiers, as they are now eight games unbeaten on their travels, securing five wins in the process.

These two teams are evenly matched and this game is unlikely to produce goals galore. However, I do believe that Croatia will have the slight edge on home soil and record a win in a low scoring affair.