Comeback required in Austria
UEFA U19 EURO 2019 QUALIFYING - PLAYOFFS (LEG 2)
Trailing 0:1 from the first match, Greece take on Austria in the second leg of the playoff to reach the 2019 UEFA U21 European Championship. AGONAsport previews the encounter in St Polten.
During the group stage of qualifying, the Greeks went unbeaten at home in five matches against Croatia, the Czech Republic, Belarus, Moldova and San Marino, however they were given a rude awaken by the Austrians. Hosting Austria inside a practically empty Toumba Stadium, the Ethniki Elpidon conceded a disappointing 0:1 loss, with Stefan Posch sliding a deflected corner beyond goalkeeper Konstantinos Kotsaris with six minutes remaining on the clock. After a tepid first half, Greece improved in the second and missed a couple of glorious opportunities, but the crucial Austrian away goal has given Antonis Nikopolidis’ men a mountain to climb.
In order to qualify for their first U21 European Championship since 2002, the Elpidon must defeat Austria in their own backyard. In Group 7, the Austrians lost the one match on home turf, dropping a 1:3 defeat to winners Serbia while beating Russia, Armenia, FYROM and Gibraltar.
Greece finished in joint first place of Group 1 of qualifying with Croatia on 25 points, but due to possessing an inferior head-to-head record, the Elpidon had to settle for second spot and a berth in the qualification playoffs. For their part, Austria defeated Russia in their decisive game in Group 7 to finish in second, four points behind the Serbians.
Senior national team boss Angelos Anastasiadis and technical director Angelos Basinas will make the trip to Austria to watch this match in person.
TEAM NEWS: AUSTRIA
The Austrians don’t have any injury problems after the first leg, and taking into account the manner of victory and solid defensive performance in Thessaloniki, boss Werner Gregoritsch is unlikely to make big chances to the line-up. LASK goalkeeper Alexander Schlager is a reliable figure between the sticks and pulled off a superb save to deny Dimitris Limnios in the maiden game against the Greeks.
Forward Arnej Jakupovic, the scorer of four goals in Group 7, could start the match instead of Adrian Grbic after contributing with an assist in Greece.
Possible line-up: Schlager, Ingolitsch, Posch, Lienhart, Ullmann, Ljubic, Danso, Baumgartner, Wolf, Lovric, Jakupovic.
TEAM NEWS: GREECE
In the first game, Greece played without star striker and Super League top scorer Efthymis Koulouris, however the 22-year old was released from the senior national team to help the under 21 side in Austria. Koulouris, who has scored eight goals with Atromitos in the domestic championship, will be expected to productively lead the line in the second leg.
On the other hand, there is an injury problem with Olympiacos left-back Konstantinos Tsimikas. The 22-year old has travelled to Austria, but tomorrow morning, his condition will be assessed to see whether he can participate. Assuming he can’t play, Asteras Tripolis player Giorgos Kyriakopoulos will probably take his place.
Possible line-up: Kotsaris, Saliakis, Nikolaou, Chatzidiakos, Kyriakopoulos, Galanopoulos, Androutsos, Bouzoukis, Chatzigiovannis, Limnios, Koulouris.
REFEREE: CRAIG PAWSON (ENG)
39-year old Englishman Craig Pawson will oversee proceedings at the NV Arena in St Polten. In the current season, Pawson has taken charge of four matches in European club competition, refereeing the Slavia Prague - Dynamo Kyiv (1:1), Dinamo Zagreb - Fenerbahce (4:1), Real Betis - AC Milan (1:1) and NK Olimpija - Spartak Trnava (0:2) games.
In the UEFA Nations League, Pawson was the referee for two of Greece’s opponents in Group 2 of League C, keeping control of the Estonia - Finland (0:1) meeting. He also refereed the Brazil - Uruguay friendly in London on Friday (1:0), issuing eight yellow cards and awarding one penalty.
Referee: Craig Pawson (ENG)
Assistant referees: Lee Betts (ENG), Ian Hussin (ENG)
Fourth official: Chris Kavanagh (ENG)
WAYS TO QUALIFY
Leading 1:0 on aggregate, a victory for the Austrians or a draw would see them qualify for the 2019 UEFA U21 European Championship. Greece must beat Austria to reach the competition which will be hosted by Italy and San Marino. A 1:0 Greek win would see the tie go into extra time, but if Greece claim a victory with a difference of one marker by scoring at least two goals (2:1, 3:2, 4:3 e.t.c.), the country will oust Austria based on the away goals rule.
WHERE TO WATCH