Croatia vs Greece

Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic could miss Thursday’s World Cup 2018 play-off first leg tie against Greece with a hamstring strain.

Defensive midfielder Milan Badelj has been ruled out with a ribcage muscle injury.

Greece, who finished behind Belgium in Group H, are hoping that captain Vasilis Torosidis and central defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos are fit.

Kostas Manolas is suspended for the first leg due to a fair play violation.

Croatia have won all four of their play-offs to reach either World Cup or European Championship tournaments in the past and have advanced to nine out of 11 major finals as an independent nation.

“The Greeks will certainly be defensive and try as hard as they can to keep a clean sheet, but we have enough up our sleeve up front in an effort to swing the tie our way here in Zagreb,” winger Ivan Perisic told the Croatian Football Association website.

Since making their tournament debut in 1998, Croatia have qualified for every World Cup bar one and they are clear favourites to beat Greece in this two-legged play-off to earn a place in Russia next summer.
The 2004 European champions failed to qualify for Euro 2016 after finishing bottom of their group (behind the Faroe Islands, against whom they lost twice), yet their World Cup qualifying campaign saw a vast improvement as the side finished second in Group H behind a rampant Belgium side.