“We deserved better” - Skibbe
Greece coach Michael Skibbe believes Greece did not deserve to lose 2-1 to Belgium in Sunday’s crucial World Cup qualifier and is optimistic that his players can still make it to the 2018 finals in Russia.
Greece lost out narrowly to group favorites Belgium in a tightly-contested Group H encounter at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium in Athens, a result which secured the Belgians a place at nxt summer’s showpiece while jeopardizing the hosts’ hopes of qualifying in the process.
“First of all I would like to congratulate Belgium on the win and reaching the World Cup,” said Skibbe.
The German added: “From my point of view though, we played an excellent match today and showed that when we are on our game we can compete at a very high level and take on the best teams in the world. This is something that I’m very proud of a coach.”
“Over the 90 minutes I think we were the better team and we deserved to win this match. Belgium’s first goal came from nothing, and although the second goal was excellent, we had more chances overall.”
The result means Greece surrendered second spot – which gives Greece a shot at making the playoffs - to Bosnia and Herzegovina, who ran out comfortable 4-0 winners against section strugglers Gibraltar.
That is a slender margin, however, and there are still two rounds of fixtures to play, so Greece still have time to turn things around and claim second spot which leads to a two-legged playoff for the place at the World Cup.
Only one points separates the two teams, though, and Greece must now turn their attention to getting a win against Cyprus away from home in the next round of matches on October 7, and hope that Belgian can do them a favor when they travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina on the same night.
“Of course we are in a difficult position right now but it’s not impossible,” added Skibbe. “We simply have to win the last two matches and hope results can also go in our favor. We have to believe that Belgium will continue to try and win their matches.”
“I spoke with the players after the game and we agreed that we will have to repeat this performance in the final two matches and if we do that we know we will be in with a shot of reclaiming second place – and that’s what matters.”
‘OUR INDIVIDUAL QUALITY WAS THE DIFFERENCE’ - COURTOIS
Goals from Gert Vertongen and Romelu Lukaku proved enough to seal a vital win for Roberto Martinez’s Belgian team on the night, with Zeca momentarily levelling matters for Greece, as they became the first European team apart from hosts Russia to book a place at the 2018 finals.
While Greece were on top for long spells, Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois pointed to the individual quality of his team-mates as the deciding factor in explaining how the visitors came away with the three points.
“We are all very happy with making it to Russia 2018,” said the Chelsea custodian.
He added: “We knew it would be tough here but we came here to win and although Greece gave us a very difficult time we showed that we are the better team and are delighted with our well-deserved place at the World Cup.”
“We showed a lot of quality and character. If you look at it closely, we have players who are playing at some of the best clubs in the world and I think the individual quality of our players in the one-on-one battles all over the pitch was what proved the key in helping us win.”