Greece and Croatia shared the spoils after a goalless draw in Group F allowed Greece to escape Zagreb with a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying point.
Greece had come from behind to draw 1-1 with Georgia four days earlier after conceding inside three minutes, but Fernando Santos’s team started as they meant to go on at the Stadion Maksimir.
On a frustrating night, Slaven Bilic’s men dominated possession but struggled to break down a well-drilled defensive wall, with second-half efforts from substitutes Nikica Jelavic and Eduardo the closest Croatia came to breaking through.
The home side had begun brightly, moving the ball swiftly through Niko Kranjcar and Luka Modric, the latter back after a thigh injury forced him to miss Friday’s 3-0 win in Latvia.
With the wing-backs providing attacking width and the impressive Danijel Pranjic often involved, Croatia looked intent on getting an early opener.
However, a deflected Kranjcar effort after eight minutes, pushed for a corner by goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis, was as close as they would come before half-time.
Greece contained, harried and after 18 minutes went close to an opener when Georgios Samaras pounced on Vedran Corluka’s miscontrol and chipped just wide.
The chance was a rarity, though the game sparked to life at the start of the second period when substitute Jelavic and Georgios Tzavelas had efforts ruled out for offside and a foul respectively.
Another Croatia replacement, Ivan Rakitic, also went close with a long-range shot tipped behind for a corner from which Corluka headed just wide.
Back came Croatia, chipping away at Avraam Papadopoulos and Sokratis Papastathopoulos and, as tiredness set in, chinks appeared in Greece’s back line in the closing stages.
Jelavic, Kranjcar and Pranjic were all unable to capitalise, however, while substitute Eduardo could not get enough on Rakitic’s late inswinging corner.
Samaras came close to snatching a first-half goal for Greece with a curling shot past goalkeeper Vedran Runje that flew narrowly wide.
“We arrived in Zagreb determined not to lose and we succeeded,” said the striker. “We played in a very disciplined way. They were very dangerous at the beginning of each half and it was crucial we survived those periods.”
After Greece had let Georgia take a point home from Piraeus last Friday, captain Giorgos Karagounis was in no doubt his team’s second consecutive draw was a point gained. “We proved to everyone and to ourselves that we can achieve a good result against a strong side, 0-0 is a great success,” Karagounis said.