SPORTS

Good result, negative signs for Greece

By George Georgakopoulos

The national team defeated Armenia 1-0 in Austria on Thursday in its last friendly game head of the European Championship finals, but has worried its fans for a number of reasons with its performance.

Just like in the 1-1 draw with Slovenia five days earlier, Greece manager Fernando Santos tried a series of ideas in the game, but it seems there is plenty of work to be done for the national team for it to have any chance in the finals in Poland and Ukraine that begin on June 8.

Playing against moderate opposition, Greece could only manage one goal while wasting two penalties and a couple of very good chances in a game that was supposed to boost the self-confidence of the national team.

It was Greece?s two best players on the night who combined for the team?s sole goal, as Giorgos Karagounis swang a freekick into the box after 23 minutes and Kyriakos Papadopoulos scored with a header.

Greece created one or two more good chances in the first half, thanks to the resourceful Karagounis and held the midfield through Yiannis Maniatis?s solid presence, but was considerably worse after the interval.

The Armenians took the chance to dominate play and create some moments of panic in the Greek back line after the substitution of Karagounis at half-time and the shift of defensive midfielder Maniatis to the right-back position.

Greece was not only lucky not to concede in the several Armenian goal-scoring opportunities, with the crucial contribution of the Kyriakos Papadopoulos clearances, but also got to earn two penalties in the second half, courtesy of Giorgos Samaras and Yiannis Fetfatzidis.

However both Samaras and Costas Katsouranis were to be denied by the impressive 37-year-old Armenian goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky, who also denied Dimitris Salpingidis in a one-on-one situation in the second half.

Had the Armenians been more careful in attack they would have easily equalized the match if not scoring an unlikely win.

What should also worry Santos is that over 180 or so minutes of friendly games against opposition hardly on Greece?s level, the national team only got to score twice, and that was thanks to its defenders on both occasions. Its strikers could not even score from the penalty spot, as the poor Samaras kick illustrated.

The national squad returns to Athens on Friday.

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