World Cup qualifying playoffs: Bad PK call puts Northern Ireland in tough spot, Croatia crushes Greece

Croatia and Switzerland are on the brink of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, taking a leg up in their playoff matches on Thursday. Croatia earned a 4-1 win over Greece as that tie seems nearly settled, while Switzerland benefited from a bogus penalty kick call to edge Northern Ireland, 1-0.

Croatia vs. Greece

Croatia took a 3-0 lead just after the half-hour mark and crushed a horrific Greek defense. Luka Modric opened with a penalty kick, while Nikola Kalinic, Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric each scored. 

To see just how bad Greece's defending was, check out this goal from Kalinic, who was wide open at the front post:

And with that result, Greece needs an unbelievable performance in the second leg on Sunday.

Switzerland vs. Northern Ireland 

The Swiss escaped with a favorable result, but it wasn't without the help of the ref. They were awarded a harsh penalty after the ball appeared to hit a defender high in the arm of a Xherdan Shaqiri shot.

And Ricardo Rodriguez made the hosts pay with his calm finish to give them the 1-0 victory.

Croatia and Switzerland should be in good shape, but these ties are far from decided with 90 minutes, and potentially more, left to play. 

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CBS Sports Writer

Roger Gonzalez is an award-winning writer based in Virginia that has covered pro soccer from Europe's top clubs to Argentina's first division. Roger started out his pro soccer writing career with Full Bio

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