What could have been
AGONAsport’s Ethniki contributor, Greg Gavalas, analyzes Greece’s valuable draw against Bosnia in matchday two of EURO 2020 qualifying.
The Greek national team has started their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with much promise. After defeating lowly Liechtenstein, Greece faced old foes Bosnia in Zenica and came away with a 2-2 draw in a match that left us wondering what could have been had Greece not started the match very poorly, gifting Bosnia a two goal cushion after just 15 minutes.
Coach Angelos Anastasiadis brought on a peculiar lineup with four central midfielders and Kostas Fortounis and Tasos Donis in front of them. Whilst the back four saw Sokratis Papastathopoulos return for the big match, this forced Dimitris Kourbelis’ return to the midfield with Zeca, Andreas Samaris, and Andreas Bouchalakis.
For all the defensive safety the lineup suggested, Greece came out with their tails between their legs and the Bosnians took full advantage. With the home crowd egging them on, Bosnia did what they wanted at the start of the game and after just 10 minutes in, took the lead with Edin Visca. Five minutes later, Odisseas Vlachodimos chose this game to ‘copyright’ a classic “Nikopolidis statue” moment as he watched Miralem Pjanic’s free-kick sail into the left corner of the old onion bag.
Bosnia continued to control the pace, however Greece came into their own as the game went on. The Ethniki should have pulled one back on 22 minutes when Michalis Bakakis set up Fortounis right in front of goal, but the Olympiacos player sent the ball well over the crossbar. By the half hour mark, Greece were in control of the match and Donis’ poor headers failed to threaten the Bosnia keeper. One wonders if Efthymios Koulouris had started, what may have been.
The second half began as the game should have, with both teams evenly poised before Greece again took control and were rewarded with a penalty that Fortounis converted in style in the 64th minute. Greece went on to dominate the rest of the half and Pjanic’s red card gave Greece more power and confidence. The momentum had clearly shifted. The pressure paid off in the 85th minute as substitute Dimitris Kolovos converted a great header from Zeca’s pinpoint cross to give Greece the valuable point.
The match in Zenica was a changing of the guard for the Ethinki. Since the 2014 World Cup, Greece have gone through some very ordinary times and the team’s fight back attitude was something that has not been seen since the Fernando Santos days.
A big part of the new spirit is the inclusion of Euro 2004 heroes Angelos Basinas and Stelios Giannakopoulos in the management ranks. The two veterans along with Anastasiadis, have done a good job mentoring the players into a real “team” environment and as a result, there is a hunger in the team that has lacked in recent years. This spirit is needed in abundance when Italy visit next on June 8th.
Another thing needed is better finishing up front. Whilst the creativity issues look to have been solved, many chances went begging in both matches. Against Italy, Greece must make the most if their opportunities and in general going forward.
It must be said, Leonardo Koutris really took charge of the left flank, with great runs and crosses. We was a great attacking weapon for Greece.
Below are my rankings for the Greek players against Bosnia:
Leonardo Koutris (5): Koutris shined in the second half with excellent runs on the flanks and good crosses into the box. He had great glimpses of speed as well.
Carlos Zeca (5): Another powerhouse performance from Zeca; Ran all throughout the match and made some important defensive plays. If that wasn’t enough, he provided the pinpoint cross for Kolovos’ equalizer.
Kostas Fortounis (4.5): It was a slow start for Kosta as he took some time to put his mark on the match. However as the game went on, Fortounis’ influence became more evident. He had some poor passes to the flanks which will need to improve for future games; Scored a great penalty under much pressure at a critical point in the match.
Dimitris Siovas (4.5): Another good game for the Leganes defender; Some great long range passing that was spot on and calm under pressure. He is a great asset for the team
Andreas Samaris (4): Inconsistent match for Samaris, similar to the first match, but when he contributes positively its telling.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos (3.5): Quiet, but effective game for the most part from Sokratis. His leadership in the back is evident.
Dimitris Kolovos (3.5) Came on and showed his worth. Proved Anastasiadis right in his call up and provided the team with good speed and a vital goal in attack.
Dimitris Kourbelis (2.5): Did a lot of dirty work and really cemented his place in the team over the two matches.
Michalis Bakakis (2): The AEK right back had a mixed night, some good moments but also some poor passes and clearances.
Andreas Bouchalakis (1.5): Was substituted off at halftime, but was good and effective with his accurate passing.
Giorgos Masouras (1.5): Started the second half well, but faded away as the game went on.
Tasos Donis (1): A lot of running by the Stuttgart striker but little substance in this one. He had two good chances with headers, but the execution was sub par.
Odisseas Vlachodimos (1): A poor match from Odisseas; The first goal was questionable but the second goal was a gift for Bosnia.
Efthymios Koulouris (NA): Came on with 10 to go, but didn not get any service
The points scoring system, named the Gregorio analysis, is based on player contributions in a match and how positive their contribution was. Players that played 90 minutes and do not core more than three points had poor matches, whilst anything between 3-5 is a good ranking. Anything above a six mean the respective player had an outstanding match.