Kramaric: “We’ll settle for nothing less than World Cup qualification”
Andrej, these two games are all about getting to the World Cup in Russia next year. How important is it that you qualify for the tournament?
Andrej Kramaric: It’s really important to everyone in Croatia. For me, the team and the country as a whole. If we qualify it will be my first World Cup, which would be amazing. Everyone who has already played in the tournament has told me that it’s the pinnacle of their careers. I really want to help my team make it to Russia.
What do you think of your chances to do so?
Kramaric: We know that we have two challenging games ahead of us. I know a few Greek players from the Bundesliga, so I'm aware of their strengths and weaknesses. We’re also confident enough to say that we’re the better team though - collectively and individually. We have to play the football that we know we can play and believe in ourselves. If we do that, we will progress. It’s really important for us to put in a really good performance in Zagreb so that we go into the second leg with a bit of an advantage. The following game in Athens will then be much easier for us if we do, because Greece will be forced to try and get a goal, which in turn will give us more space to work with. We’re the kind of team that can make use of that.
In your last game against Ukraine you managed to score twice. What would it mean to you if you could get another goal in the playoffs?
Kramaric: It would be an unbelievable feeling. It always feels great to score a goal, and even more so when it’s for your country. I love playing for Croatia and I’d love to be able to score in what is a really important game for us. The main goal is to qualify for Russia before any personal achievement though.
You have to deal with the pressure of the whole country expecting you to qualify for the World Cup. What’s it like having this added expectation on your shoulders?
Kramaric: It’s nothing new. Our fans always expect us to win. And at the same time, we expect ourselves to play well enough to make it to Russia. We’ll settle for nothing less. We have a great team with some great players such as Modric, Mandzukic, Perisic and Rakitic, so anything other than World Cup qualification would be a massive disappointment - for me, for everyone.