How Greece can finish 2nd in Group H
After two poor results against Estonia and Belgium, Greece fell to third in Group H and are currently at the mercy of other results to claim second place in the group. AGONAsport breaks down the scenarios of the final two games in Group H.
FIFA World Cup qualifying is slowly coming to an end and Greece are still well in the hunt for a place in Russia 2018. After eight rounds of matches, Greece currently sit third in group H and depend on other results to finish second in the group to possibly earn a place in the two-legged playoffs.
Taking things from the top, Europe are awarded 13 qualifying places at the World Cup in addition to the hosts, Russia, who automatically qualify. In qualifying, the 54 European teams were separated into 9 groups of 6 teams with the 9 group winners earning a place in the 2018 World Cup. The eight best runners will be paired in a two-legged playoff for the final 4 European places.
In Group H, Belgium have secured first spot and have qualified for the World Cup. Now onto second place...Realistically, only Bosnia or Greece will claim second spot with Cyprus and Estonia still mathematically alive with two qualifiers remaining. Bosnia sit in second with 14 points and Greece sit in third with 13 points, while Cyprus have 10 points and Estonia way back on 8 points. Here, we will focus on Bosnia and Greece.
It is clear for Greece. The Ethniki needs to win both games against Cyprus (away) and Gibraltar (home) to have hopes of finishing second in the group. This will move Greece up to 19 points.
If Greece fail to defeat Cyprus (or Gibraltar), they will be mathematically alive for second place, depending on Bosnia’s results. However, if results go in favor of Greece and they manage to scramble into second place, they will finish as the worst second placed team and miss out on the playoffs all together. Again, this is if Greece finish second in Group H without defeating both Cyprus and Gibraltar. Thus, Greece MUST win both games against Cyprus and Gibraltar.
As for Bosnia, Greece will need their group H rivals to drop points in one of their final two matches at home to Belgium (closed stadium) or away to Estonia (that is if Greece win both games). A draw will do in either one of those games with Greek fans putting most of their hopes in Bosnia’s next match when they host the group winners, Belgium.
Although the Red Devils will have no points value in the match, coach Robert Martinez stated that Belgium will go to Bosnia for a win. In addition, Belgium will look to finish the qualifying campaign strong as to be seeded in the first pot in the World Cup draw for the group stages. Another thing in favor of Greece, is that Bosnia will host Belgium without fans, due to the incidents that took place in Zenica in June, when Bosnia hosted Greece in qualifying.
If Belgium cannot come through for Greece, Bosnia will travel to Estonia on the final matchday. The Estonians have proven to be a tough team to breakdown and after holding Greece to a goalless draw in Athens, could come through with a surprise result against Bosnia which would benefit Greece in the end.
It simply comes down to this for the final two matches for Greece to finish second in the group:
- Greece must defeat Cyprus (away) and Gibraltar (home)
- Bosnia must draw or lose one of their final two matches against Belgium (home) and Estonia (away)
If Greece do manage to finish second in the group, they must be one of the best eight runner-ups to clinch a playoff spot. Right now, the runner up of Group H is the favorite to be the worst second placed team, however things could change and many scenarios are up in the air in the final two matches. This will be broken down in an article in the next couple of days. Stay Tuned.