Luka Modric and his compatriots will be one of the 32 nations taking photographs in Moscow’s Red Square next summer. Lenin’s tomb, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the massive walls of the Kremlin are already poised and stationed for every photo opportunity. That is of course when they aren’t playing football.
Croatia, the often underperforming yet fully talented powerhouse of the Balkans, played to a nil-nil draw with Greece in the second leg of their playoff match in Piraeus on Sunday night. Having won the first leg by a commanding 4-1 in Zagreb just a few nights prior means Croatia will be in contention to lift next year’s world cup in Russia.
Making several changes in their defensive lineup from last Thursday’s defeat in Zagreb, Greece kept mainstay and stalwart Sokratis Papastathopoulos, or simply Sokratis, who was instrumental in denying the wandering legs of Modric and Mario Mandzukic. They started the first few minutes of play on a prayer, and fought for and held possession for most of the first half with Konstantinos Mitroglou, the constant playmaker. It was his attacking mind and deft touches that at times caught the hungry Panagiotis Retsos running forward from his place in defense.
Still, there were no direct shots on goal from a much-improved Greek side that could do little to overcome this formidable Croatian side. They should have been awarded a penalty early on when Ivan Strinic brought down F.C. Copenhagen single named midfielder Zeca, but a free kick went the way of the Croats.
It was the tenacious Ivan Perisic whose 30-yard shot came close to brilliance in the dying minutes of the first half, but sadly only managed to rattle the woodwork.
According to BBC Sports, there were no traveling fans allowed at any of the fixtures due to concerns over violence. At one point the cameras caught wind of Modric running towards the touchline for a corner kick with his face aglow in green laser lights. Troublesome Greeks fans were no doubt looking for some kind of advantage. They will have a chance at it again, but only after watching Croatia at next year’s finals.
[Featured Image by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images]