World Cup Qualifying Preview:
Greece v Bosnia
FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFYING - GROUP H (MATCHDAY 4)
|Greece||2:45 PM (EST)||Bosnia-Herzegovina|
Greece's all-important World Cup Qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina is just a day away and AGONAsport.com brings you a full-preview for Sunday's match. For more, visit the Greek National Soccer Team's home page at AGONAsport.com!
Greek hopes of a spot in the 2018 FIFA World Cup will face a stern test on Sunday night as Michael Skibbe’s side take on Bosnia and Herzegovina in a Group H qualifying clash. The match, to be played at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, pits two sides hoping to edge out the other in a section where Belgium are the big favorites.
After a disastrous qualifying campaign for EURO 2016, Greece are slowly finding their footing and have begun this qualifying journey in a much improved state. Victory over Estonia last month made it three wins out of three for the Galanolefki after earlier wins against Gibraltar and Cyprus. Bosnia though will be a much tougher proposition and a win against Mehmed Bazdarevic’s side would be a massive boost for Greece as they look ahead toward Russia in two years’ time.
Bosnia currently lie in 3rd place in the group, three points behind joint leaders Belgium and Greece who are on nine points. Bosnia’s lone defeat thus far came in early October when they were thrashed by the Belgians 4-0 away. The Zmajevi will certainly be looking to grab a result in Greece knowing full well that there are plenty of matches left in the qualification process to claim at least second place.
Greece: Greece come into this match with some injury issues and new faces. Kostas Manolas suffered a broken nose during action with Roma last week and was ruled out of the squad. Sokratis Papastathopoulos was an injury concern when the international call-ups were made, but has since recovered and is expected to start.
In Greece’s 1-0 friendly defeat to Belarus on Wednesday, Panagiotis Tachtsidis was transferred to the hospital after the match after suffering an injury and has been ruled out of the Bosnia match. In his place, Skibbe has called up two players, Giorgos Koutroubis of Panathinaikos and Panionios’ Manolis Siopis. Giannis Maniatis’ participation will probably end up being a game-day decision due to a knock picked up against Belarus.
Finally, this will be the first qualifier without Jose Holebas who announced his retirement from international football after the Estonia match last month.
Bosnia: Head coach Bazdarevic was able to call on a full squad for his side’s trip to Greece. Bosnia have been training indoors for a few days due to the snow and cold taking grip of the country. The only injury concern that has popped up concerns Sead Kolasinac. The Schalke defender is struggling to overcome his recent injury and is now considered doubtful to recover in time for Sunday’s match.
The good news for Bosnian supporters is the apparent readiness of Emir Spahic. The 36-year-old center-back looks ready to shrug off a recent groin injury to play on Sunday.
Greece: Karnezis (GK), Papastathopoulos (CB), K. Papadopoulos (CB), Tzavellas (LB), Torosidis, (RB) Samaris (CDM), Stafylidis (CDM), Fortounis (AMF), Mantalos (RWF), Karelis (LWF), Mitroglou (CF)
Bosnia: Begovic, Spahic, Bicackic, Vranjes, Medunjanin, Ibisevic, Pjanic, Lulic, Zukanovic, Visca, Dzeko
The man in the middle for this match will be Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson. The 42-year-old may be a familiar face to many as he took control of last year’s Europa League final between Sevilla and Liverpool.
A FIFA international referee since 2002, Eriksson has overseen three matches involving Greek sides during his career. He refereed the EURO 2012 Group Stage match between Greece and Russia, which Greece won 1-0, thereby advancing to the quarterfinals of the competition.
Eriksson also was the referee for Olympiacos’ 4-0 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions’ League as well as Panathinaikos’ 3-1 loss to Lens in the UEFA CUP Round of 32 back in 2007.
- 11/9/16 Greece-Belarus 0-1 (International Friendly)
- 10/10/16 Estonia-Greece 0-2 (2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier, UEFA Group H)
- 10/7/16 Greece-Cyprus 2-0 (2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier, UEFA Group H)
- 9/6/16 Gibraltar-Greece 1-4 (2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier, UEFA Group H)
- 9/1/16 Netherlands-Greece 1-2 (International Friendly)
- 10/10/16 Bosnia- Cyprus 2-0 (2018 FIFA World Qualifier, UEFA Group H)
- 10/7/16 Belgium-Bosnia 4-0 (2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier, UEFA Group H)
- 9/6/16 Bosnia-Estonia 5-0 (2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier, UEFA Group H)
- 6/7/16 Japan-Bosnia 1-2 (2016 Kirin Cup Final)
- 6/3/16 Denmark-Bosnia 2-2 (3-4 pk) (2016 Kirin Cup Semifinal)
Greece have faced Bosnia on seven occasions having beaten them four times and drawing twice. The Bosnians’ lone victory was in the two teams’ last encounter which was a 3-1 victory in Bosnia during the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in March 2013. The two teams meet again in their second consecutive World Cup Qualifying campaign, with Bosnia topping the group ahead of Greece on goal differential, in 2014 Qualifying.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Greece (Nikos Karelis): “With Bosnia it will be different. It will not be the same as with Belarus. We will have a different sort of game that has its own importance and of course it won’t be a friendly. We leave the Belarus match behind. For us, the important games are ahead of us. Sunday will be a very crucial match. We have to be focused, disciplined, and united and work together. We cannot afford to concede a goal in the first minutes of the match. Our target is to not give up anything early and then work together and I am sure the goal will come with the help of the supporters.”
Greece (Kostas Stafylidis):“The match against Bosnia is a life or death fixture. We have experienced players who will in the big leagues. We are fully ready for Sunday. Certainly, we need the supporters, the more the better. We want them close to us on Sunday, they give us positive energy. “
Bosnia (Ervin Zukanovic):“For three days we trained indoors because of the snow, but it hasn’t affected us. It will be a very difficult match, because both sides are going for second place. We know that Greece have a good team, but we also are in good shape and I hope we can win.”
Bosnia (Mehmed Bazdarevic):“The favorite in the group is surely Belgium, and we saw that playing in Brussels, but I want to believe that Bosnia and Greece will qualify to the World Cup in Russia. We find ourselves at the start of the matches, and now the difficult matches really begin. Bosnia and Greece have not said their final word on qualifying just yet.”
This has all the makings of an extremely tight contest on Sunday in Piraeus. The signals being sent out by both sides is one of caution. On Greece’s end, there is the real desire to not give up anything early, while the opposition has reiterated time and time again this week that a draw would be a welcome result. Put those statements all together and the suggestion is that we are in for a hard-fought, cagey battle.
Bosnia are a team of unarguable quality. They are also a side beginning to show its age and with their top players not exactly in the form of their careers. Greece have a huge chance to make a real statement in this group with a victory.
It remains to be seen how far Skibbe’s team has come since EURO 2016 qualifying has ended. The first signs in this qualifying cycle have been promising, but the Ethniki are nowhere near the final package just yet. There have been weaknesses exposed in the Cyprus and Estonia games, but those sides didn’t have the luck or possess the quality to capitalize on them. After such an awful last two years, it would be ridiculous to suggest that Greece are perfect because of a strong start. Rather this remains a team in transition, trying to find its identity while at the same navigate passage to the World Cup.
That said, there is a wave of positivity coming from the camp and if they can begin to be united again and fight together they could surprise Bosnia. If Skibbe’s players can start the match well, a narrow win could be on the cards.
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