Milan Badelj will miss Croatia’s World Cup play-off matches against Greece due to a thigh strain.
The midfielder sustained the injury during club side Fiorentina’s 4-2 home defeat to Roma at the weekend and the Croatian Football Federation have now confirmed the 28-year-old will be unavailable for both legs of the crucial World Cup 2018 qualifier.
Croatia host Greece in the first leg on Thursday and are 1.36 to secure the win. Greece are 11.00 and a draw is 4.50.
Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic admits Badelj’s absence comes as a blow but he is confident his side can come out on top and secure a place in the showpiece event in Russia next year.
Dalic insists his side will not underestimate Greece, but he believes Croatia’s superior quality will prove the difference over the course of the double-header.
“Everything is in our hands, and even though we respect Greece, Croatia has to present its quality,” he told reporters.
He added: “I believe in this national team. The whole nation awaits success, and I’m ready.
Greece has lost only to Belgium [during qualifying], proving their defensive quality and discipline.
We must not rush, our supporters must not rush, realising opportunities will be rare.
However, we’ll take one step at the time” Croatia are 7.50 to win 3-0 and striker Mario Mandzukic is 4.33 to score the first goal of the game.