World Cup: Croatia 4 Greece 1

first_imgCroatia 4 Greece 1: Kalinic leads play-off rout in Zagreb Rob Lancaster Last updated 2 years ago 05:55 11/10/17 Luka Modric_cropped Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images Greece’s hopes of reaching Russia look bleak after a series of defensive mistakes proved costly in Zagreb. Croatia seized control of their World Cup qualifying play-off against Greece as they claimed a commanding 4-1 home victory in the first leg on Thursday.Despite being without Mario Mandzukic, who was only fit enough for a seat on the bench due to a hamstring strain, the hosts cruised to victory on a cold night in Zagreb, putting them within touching distance of a place at the finals in Russia next year.Having had a hand in the first goal, forcing a foul from goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis to win a penalty that was converted by Luka Modric, Nikola Kalinic steered home a second from close range. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Lyon treble & England heartbreak: The full story behind Lucy Bronze’s dramatic 2019 Liverpool v Man City is now the league’s biggest rivalry and the bitterness is growing Megan Rapinoe: Born & brilliant in the U.S.A. A Liverpool legend in the making: Behind Virgil van Dijk’s remarkable rise to world’s best player Greece briefly responded with a header from Sokratis Papastathopoulos, only to leak a third before the break when Ivan Perisic – left alone at the far post – headed home.Andrej Kramaric’s third goal in his last two international appearances early in the second half extended Croatia’s advantage even further – leaving their opponents with a mountain to climb ahead of the return fixture on Sunday.#WCQ | FTNorthern Ireland 0-1 SwitzerlandCroatia 4-1 Greece:https://t.co/SpQDWJq93q pic.twitter.com/0addSNjGLa— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 9, 2017Greece’s issues were all of their own making, with any plan to keep the tie close ahead of the return leg disappearing when they gave away two avoidable goals in the opening 20 minutes.Karnezis’ decision to take a touch with the ball at his feet backfired spectacularly when he presented possession to Kalinic, with the goalkeeper compounding the initial error by carelessly flattening the Croatian forward inside the area.Modric converted from the spot – sending Karnezis the wrong way – and the home fans were soon celebrating again when an unmarked Kalinic converted Ivan Strinic’s low cross from the left wing.Reeling on the ropes after taking Croatia’s one-two on the chin, Greece briefly countered when Sokratis’ looping header from a corner cut the deficit in half.However, having worked so hard to grab an away goal, Michael Skibbe’s side conceded again within five minutes, Sime Vrsaljko’s deep cross from the right presenting Perisic with the simple task of nodding the ball in.The gap would have been greater at the break were it not for Karnezis, who went some way to redeeming his earlier error with a fine double save to deny Kramaric and Kalinic in quick succession.Yet Greece’s calamitous defending was not just confined to the first half.Konstantinos Stafylidis’ attempt to chest a deep cross back to his own goalkeeper served up a fourth goal on a plate, the alert Vrsaljko nipping in to square the ball across for the waiting Kramaric to convert.Sokratis headed over under pressure from Dejan Lovren in a rare moment of concern for Croatia, while Danijel Subasic was required to turn away a 90th-minute header from Konstantinos Mitroglou.Perisic wastefully blazed over when well placed at the other end as Greece narrowly avoided conceding what surely would have been the knockout blow. As it is, they still require a remarkable turnaround in the home leg in Athens. read morelast_img read more

The more England beat New Zealand, the less they fear NRL players

first_imgShare on Pinterest Support The Guardian Share on Twitter Read more Australia sport Twitter features Fifth and lastAdd Scotland to the list of teams who have fielded fewer than 17 players this season. An injury epidemic left the Bravehearts with just 16 when they lost Lewis Tierney in the warm-up in Ireland, the Catalans star taking the number of unavailable Scots well into the twenties.Ireland’s dozen full-timers were too strong for Scotland’s four, winning 36-10. While Newcastle (Tyne and Wear) recruit Liam Finn was majestic for the Wolfhounds, Newcastle (New South Wales)-based second-rower Nick Glohe was considered Scotland’s best on his try-scoring debut.In the other European Championship opener, Tony Gigot was superb as France swatted away understrength Wales, 54-18. Toulouse forward Rhys Curran – surely the first former Eltham College pupil to play international rugby league – scored on his France debut.Whoever loses between Scotland and Wales in Galashiels on Friday faces another round of qualifiers next year, while the winners of Ireland v France in Santry on Saturday will secure a place at the 2021 World Cup.Follow No Helmets Required on Twitter and Facebook Martin Taupau can vouch for the NRL quality of Luke Thompson’s explosive runs. The Kiwi hardman’s braids were jolted back when hit by the ginger-bearded Saints express engine. England boss Wayne Bennett was lost for words about the rookie Thompson’s dynamite impact off the bench. “We were missing some top guys and Sean [O’Loughlin] goes off, but when someone comes on like he did and plays a lot of minutes… phew!”Bennett was also blown away by the adventurous kick returns, darting bursts and clever off-loads of winger Tommy Makinson. “He was outstanding; I couldn’t believe what he did.” Like Thompson and Makinson, try-scoring international newcomers Jake Connor and Oliver Gildart looked capable of matching the best in the business on their day. No doubt they are all on NRL clubs’ shopping lists.Bennett said “we don’t see enough of” the sort of thrilling try with which Gildart crowned his debut. Viewed from the frigid press seats at the back of the top tier, the Wigan centre’s outstanding immediate footwork upon receiving the ball to avoid Ken Maumalo suggested he could play tag in a cream Kingston Communications phonebox.Bennett’s England set-up has dismantled the NRL superiority factor. The next step will be to demolish Australia’s unbeatable aura, something New Zealand have managed. With little competition for places at their Super League clubs, England’s players have previously found it hard to step up to match the NRL’s best on a weekly basis. Spells in the NRL seem to have banished that issue. Nuggety all-action hero John Bateman will become the 11th member of England’s player pool to test themselves in the NRL when he joins Whitehead and Hodgson in Canberra next season.The consistency required to retain a place in an NRL XIII is key. Commit daft errors – as England did twice in as many minutes against New Zealand, leading to Watene-Zelezniak putting the Kiwis ahead – and there is always someone ready to take your place.There appear to be four nations now nudging elbows as they dine at rugby league’s top table. England beat New Zealand by two points on Saturday a fortnight after New Zealand had beaten Australia by the same margin. And that’s the Australia team who won the World Cup last year by beating England – who reached the final with a two-point victory over Tonga, who made it to the semi-finals by beating New Zealand.Foreign quota Joseph Manu in action against Australia earlier this month. Photograph: Fiona Goodall/AFP/Getty Images Super League Share via Email Oliver Gildart takes on New Zealand in Hull. Photograph: Richard Long/News Images/Rex/Shutterstock England rugby league team Oliver Gildart strikes late to give England victory over New Zealand Share on Facebook Read more Rugby league … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. Whether we are up close or further away, the Guardian brings our readers a global perspective on the most critical issues of our lifetimes – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. We believe complex stories need context in order for us to truly understand them. 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England temper crowd estimate for Sunday’s New Zealand Test at Anfield Share on WhatsApp Twitter Since you’re here… Pinterest Pinterest No Helmets Required I asked England boss Wayne Bennett about Gildart not even being in his original squad, only to be called up from the Knights when Sam Burgess pulled out. “After seeing the way he played in the last month, I said ‘Let’s grab him now’,” explained Bennett. “He’s only 21 years old so he has a long future with us.”Never mind the Knights; Gildart could have been playing for Italy instead of England. The Azzurri, who unsuccessfully tried to recruit Gildart last year for the World Cup, beat Niue 36-32 on Saturday in Sydney, Townsville forward Brenden Santi scoring the winner in the last minute.James Tedesco’s big brother Matthew made his Italy debut, while Niue were led by a former London Broncos and Barrow duo: captain Zab Lucky Luisi and coach Pat Weisner.Clubcall: Sydney Roosters New Zealand rugby league Four years ago Joseph Manu was one of the standout players at the inaugural Commonwealth Championships in Cumbernauld, ripping it up and earning the nickname “Sonny Bill” from the victorious Papua New Guinea team. However, he did it wearing the green and gold of Australia. As NSW Under-18 champions, his club side Sydney Roosters were representing Australia. Hamilton-born Manu told me then his dream was to play for the Kiwis. He has now achieved that after a sensational NRL-winning season. Let’s hope we see Manu and his Roosters Kiwi mates – the firebrand Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Isaac Liu – back here for the World Club Challenge against Wigan in February.Goal-line-drop-outThe 17,649 attendance in Hull led to serious wailing. One RFL employee admitted they had not put enough into marketing the first Test – as was the case with the pathetic turnout for Australia v Scotland across the River Hull two years ago.There were more Americans in Denver in June and more than twice as many at London’s Olympic Stadium in 2015 to watch the same fixture. Yes, the hideous lunchtime weather was reminiscent of the 2000 World Cup, eliminating any potential walk-ups but this was the smallest crowd at an England v New Zealand game for 11 years.On the other hand, the Hull attendance was about par for an England v New Zealand Test. In fact, there was no crowd as big as last Saturday’s for any Kiwi game on these shores between 1961 and 1985. RFL boss Ralph Rimmer expects Anfield to be only half-full on Sunday but perhaps that is no surprise. Other than cup finals, since 1951 only four of England’s home matches against New Zealand have drawn more than 25,000 fans. NRL Having won their last two games against New Zealand, England should have no inferiority complex before their meeting an Anfield on Sunday. But they still go into the Test wary of the Kiwis. Shaun Johnson, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jordan Rapana, Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor all have big reputations, and English fans might assume their boys from Dewsbury and Bradford, Wigan and Widnes will not be able to match these NRL superstars.That is nonsense according to England and Canberra Raiders second-rower Elliott Whitehead. Having been voted man of the match in England’s 18-16 victory over New Zealand at Hull on Saturday, Whitehead insisted his teammates from the Super League have nothing to fear.Indeed, he believes they could all follow him, his Canberra teammate Josh Hodgson and the Burgess brothers to the toughest league in the world. “The Kiwis play NRL week-in, week-out but the players in the England squad who play in Super League are more than capable of playing over there,” he said. “They could all cope in the NRL, I’m 100% sure. Anyone could go over there and play.” Topics Share on LinkedIn Facebook Reuse this content Share on Messenger Facebook last_img read more