Greece vs Cyprus. The game is just hours away. The two sides will face each other for their massive 2018 World Cup qualifying clash. They will meet competitively for the first time in their history. They were selected during last year’s draw; it’s been a long wait for sure. Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Gibraltar complete the line-up for Group H.
In Piraeus at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Friday 7th October at 19:45 GMT the whistle will blow and yes, we have kick-off.
The teams have contrasting fortunes from the first set of matches which started their campaigns only last month. Off to a flying start, the Greek team picked up three points after beating Gibraltar 4-1 away. On the other hand, Cyprus will look to get a few points on the board after they lost 3-0 to Belgium in Nicosia. Despite the early set-back, the Cypriot squad are highly motivated ahead of playing their neighbours in what should prove a very intriguing competitive derby between the countries.
Michael Skibbe the German coach of the Greece side had expressed how important it was for his side to secure a winning result. ”We have to concentrate with the first match with Cyprus, to take the three points with this same will we would hope to beat Estonia. We know that the next matches will be with Bosnia and Belgium, where we have to play two very good teams. Every point helps”.
He spoke about reviving the national team’s fortunes after the failure of the last qualifying campaign, was a low-point for the side. He made the point: ”Something has changed with the dynamic of the team. For two years we took a serious ‘beating’ and everybody does not want this. They want a change.”
Just before 13:30 on Wednesday, Cyprus’ national team arrived in Athens and as scheduled completed their first training session later at Agios Kosmas.
Christakis Christoforou’s men can draw inspiration from the fact that league champions Apoel with internationals such as Giorgos Merkis, Giorgos Efrem and Pieros Sotiriou within their ranks defeated Greek giants Olympiacos 1-0 at Karaiskakis Stadium in the Europa League last week thanks to an amazing goal by Sotiriou.
The Cyprus coach emphasised his team’s ethos of playing well and treating the game in a very ‘competitive’ way. He explained ”There are teams like Belgium who are very difficult to take a positive result. Our effort with Belgium until 60′ minutes was good. We have analysed the game and the mistakes and I believe we will be in a better shape against Greece.”
Cypriot midfielder Georgios Efrem took the point ”that the game is itself unique because of our common links we have with Greece. That said however in the match we will be opponents for 90’ minutes and I hope we can take a positive result.”
The nations have only previously met in friendly matches; Cyprus in the first ever meeting between the sides in 1963 in Nicosia; walked away with a 3-1 victory on that occasion. Since then the Greek side have got the better of their clashes albeit only friendly ones, with a superior head-to-head with 15 wins, 7 draws and only 3 loses to the Cypriot side.
Good luck and may the best team win.