Croatia held Greece to a goalless draw in Piraeus to seal their place at the World Cup in Russia next summer following their emphatic 4-1 first-leg victory last Thursday.

In truth, the visitors did not have to get out of second gear in the contest as Greece struggled to create anything of note, although their much-changed team did, at least, restore some pride following their thrashing in Zagreb.

Ivan Perisic had the game’s best moment as he smashed a long-range effort off the post on the stroke of half-time while Panagiotis Tachtsidis had the only shot on target with 86 minutes on the clock.

The result means that Croatia have reached their fifth World Cup while Greece miss out on the finals for the first time since 2006.

In front of their home supporters, Greece made an energetic start to the game and had the first meaningful opportunity as Sokratis Papastathopoulos fired a low volley just wide of the past after being teed up on the edge of the area by Vasilis Torosidis.

The Dortmund defender thumped his fist into the turf in anguish before retreating sharply back to the halfway line in a show of urgency.

However, the highlight of the opening 45 minutes – and the game overall – undoubtedly belonged to Croatia and specifically, Inter Milan winger Perisic, who slammed a wonderful left-footed shot from the edge of the area onto the upright after 42 minutes with Watford’s sub ‘keeper Orestis Karnezis well beaten.

Greece needed a fast start in the second half to stand any sort of chance but instead the game meandered aimlessly before Kostas Mitroglu finally got the home fans on their feet when he swivelled and fired a shot wide just before the hour mark.

With 78 minutes played, Greece did have the ball in the net as substitute Dimitris Pelkas passed the ball into the empty net after Torisidis’ improvised flick drew a save from Danijel Subasic, but both players were in an offside position and the assistant referee got the decision right.

Finally, with four minutes remaining, a goalkeeper was forced into action as Subasic got down smartly to save Tachtsidis’ well-struck half-volley and keep his clean sheet record intact, before Pelkas skied a presentable chance over the bar in stoppage time.

It was an uneventful game but Croatia managed to maintain their concentration and avoid any complacency to secure qualification to Russia and their interim coach Zlatko Dalic will be hoping that he has done enough to earn the job full-time.

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