Published: Sat, November 11, 2017
World | By Melba Underwood

Modric key to Croatia World Cup hopes

Modric key to Croatia World Cup hopes

The outcome of these two fixtures will decide which team will travel to Russian Federation next summer, and neither side has ever failed to make it through the playoffs before this year so something has to give. Croatia eased to a comfortable 4-1 victory at home to Greece, while Switzerland scored a second-half penalty to earn a valuable 1-0 win away to Northern Ireland.

However, their dominance from start to finish, which began with Luka Modric scoring from the penalty spot in the 13th minute, was a tad surprising.

Karnezis' decision to take a touch with the ball at his feet backfired spectacularly when he presented possession to Kalinic, with the goalkeeper compounding the initial error by carelessly flattening the Croatian forward inside the area. Yes, Switzerland were the more dominant and risky side, but it was an undeserved penalty that gave the visitors a precious away goal.

The opening goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the visitors and it wasn't long before Croatia doubled their lead.

Kalinic then added the second when he met a cross from Ivan Strinic and fired past Karnezis. But the Greek defense crumbled against Croatia on Thursday.

As fans and players celebrated at Zagreb's Maksimir Stadium, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic highlighted the second leg on Sunday. The ball hits him on the back more than anything.

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Yet Greece's calamitous defending was not just confined to the first half.

Unfortunately for the visitors their defence was once again found wanting just moments after Sokratis' goal, and a simple pass out wide found Sime Vrsaljko in acres of space and with time to pick out a cross.

Left-back Ivan Strinic, who only featured in the opening 1-1 home draw with Turkey, delivered a classy performance as did right back Sime Vrsaljko and both racked up assists as Croatia raided the flanks nearly at will. The second leg in Greece will be a very tough match so Zlatko Dalic's men will need to provide a strong performance in this match.

Croatia hasn't lost at home in 11 competitive home games, but that doesn't mean much since they had a group where they were supposed to be clear favorites.

Andrej Kramaric scored Croatia's fourth shortly after the break, poking the ball in from two metres after Vrsaljko had cut out a poor back pass.

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