Croatia and Switzerland are in the 2018 World Cup finals after both teams secured goalless draws put them through.
Croatia secured their place in Russia next summer by closing out a dour game against Greece that contained only one shot on target, although the were never in any danger after a comprehensive 4-1 victory in their first leg.
Greece’s coach, Michael Skibbe, made six changes to the team that lost heavily in the first leg and the home side produced a much better performance this time, but it remains that the team could not convert possession into results and never really looked like scoring and their one shot on target, an effort by Panagiotis Tachtsidis, was comfortably saved by Danijel Subasic.
And with their progress into Russia, Croatia has now qualified for 10 out of 12 major tournaments since the Balkan state was founded in 1991by winning all five of their play-off ties to reach either World Cup or European Championship tournaments.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland coach Michael O’Neill lamented the “cruelty” of Northern Ireland’s World Cup play-off defeat by Switzerland after they were ultimately denied a place in Russia by the controversial first-leg penalty.
A goalless draw in the second-leg was also enough to send Switzerland through to a fourth consecutive World Cup finals thanks to Ricardo Rodriguez’s penalty in the first-leg.
Rodriguez was also on hand to clear a Jonny Evans header off the line in stoppage time in the second leg while Michael McGovern’s goalkeeping and wayward finishing kept his team from extending their goal advantage.
“The cruelty is in the poorness of the decision that means we are missing out on the chance to go to a World Cup,” O’Neill said. “That is the cruelty. We should still be playing extra time now, that is the reality. Yes, Switzerland were the better team in the first leg but they didn’t score other than the penalty.”
“We were the better team tonight. For us to miss out because of that mistake, at this level and with those group of players who’ve given everything, is extremely cruel. We should be out on the pitch now fighting for a place in Russia.”