Croatia rout Greece 4-1 to close in on World Cup

Croatia rout Greece 4-1 to close in on World Cup

Croatia rout Greece 4-1 to close in on World Cup

The national team hopes the midfielder will be at his best to help them beat the 2004 European champions and secure a place in the tournament in Russian Federation.

But just three minutes later, a quick Croatian attack down the right flank ended with Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic powering home a close-range header at the back post.

Croatia have one foot in the World Cup after a dominating 4-1 win over Greece in the first leg of their European World Cup qualifying play-off, but Zlatko Dalic and his side know the job isn't done yet.

Teams Croatia and Greece have placed second in their respective groups in World Cup Qualifying UEFA.

The decisive moment of the match came just before the hour mark, as Switzerland were awarded a penalty after Corry Evans was adjudged to have handled the ball in the Northern Ireland penalty area.

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Ricardo Rodriguez made no mistake from the penalty spot, sending goalkeeper Michael McGovern the wrong way as the visitors finally made their superiority count to put them in the driving seat ahead of the return leg on Sunday.

With Ivan Perisic, captain Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic at their usual high level, stand-in striker Nikola Kalinic, who replaced injured battering ram Mario Mandzukic, also stood out with a goal after winning a penalty converted by Modric. Not exactly fair, but enough to give Switzerland a huge advantage en route to the second leg on Sunday in Basel.

Fullback Ivan Strinic, who was given plenty of license to get down the left wing from both his coach and the ambivalent Greek defenders, drove to the end line and passed to an oddly wide open Kalinic, who made a nice touch to steer the ball into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead less than 20 minutes in. A solid defensive performance in Athens on Sunday will send Zlatko Dalic's side to Russian Federation, and this result has put them in pole position to secure the coveted spot. The ball hits him on the back more than anything.

"It was a great match. With a little bit of luck, we could have scored at the last minute today to make it 4-2".

"No euphoria, we have to play in Athens as if it is 0-0", Dalic said after the match.

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