By George Georgakopoulos
Greece managed a goalless draw in Portugal in its first World Cup warm-up game on Saturday, although its performance at the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon left much to be desired both in defense and in attack.
The Greeks were spared defeat to a superior Portugal thanks to a good showing by keeper Orestis Karnezis and a below-par performance by the host, who was missing injured Cristiano Ronaldo.
In its return to Lisbon 10 years after winning the Euro 2004 trophy there, the Greek national team was 80-percent defense-minded, but showed serious problems of coordination in its back line, while being unable to produce anything of note in attack for most of the game, two weeks before Greece’s first match against Colombia in Brazil.
Coach Fernando Santos fielded Karnezis in goal, Vassilis Torosidis, Jose Holebas, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Costas Manolas in defense, Alexandros Tziolis, Costas Katsouranis and Yiannis Maniatis in midfield, Giorgos Samaras and Dimitris Salpingidis at the flanks and Costas Mitroglou alone up front.
Karnezis had to intervene three times in the first 10 minutes to prevent an early goal for Portugal, as the Greek defense was time and again caught in possession.
As the first half went on, the Portuguese tide subsided, and Greece’s first shot came on the 38th minute, but Torosidis’s effort flew over the bar.
A minute later Sokratis Papastathopoulos appeared to have pulled a muscle, and he was substituted by Vangelis Moras.
The second half started with Giorgos Karagounis coming on for Tziolis, helping Greece enjoy more possession in midfield and produce the odd long ball to the forwards. Still, the service to a less agile Mitroglou was insufficient.
In the last 30 minutes of the game Greece not only managed to gain a decent share of ball possession but also asked a few questions at the Portuguese defense, leaving a rather satisfactory impression to Greek fans at the end.
Fanis Gekas and Yiannis Fetfatzidis came on just after the hour mark to replace a disappointing Mitroglou and an ever-moving Salpingidis. Manolas also picked up a knock in the second half and Loukas Vyntra substituted him for the last 20 minutes.
Greece’s best moment came on the 78th minute, when Gekas narrowly missed a cross from the right that Portugal’s substitute keeper Beto somehow managed to stop. Six minutes later it was Fetfatzidis who pulled a save from Beto.
The final substitution was the introduction of Lazaros Christodoulopoulos for Samaras, who just like Salpingidis was more noticeable for his defending than his creativity.
Greece will fly to the United States and face Nigeria on Tuesday and Bolivia on Friday, before making the trip to Brazil.