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Greece heads to World Cup after morale boosting Bolivia win

 Two headers gave Greece its only victory in four friendlies in 2014

Panayiotis Kone ended Greece's nearly four-game goalless streak in the first half and the Europeans beat Bolivia 2-1 on Friday night at New Jersey, in its last friendly before heading to Brazil for the World Cup.

Kone's goal in the 21st minute was Greece's first in 358 minutes, since Costas Mitroglou's score in a 1-1 draw against Romania in November. Greece lost 2-0 to South Korea in March and had 0-0 draws against Portugal and Nigeria in the past week.

Costas Katsouranis added a 54th-minute tally as the Greeks ended a four-game winless streak before a crowd of 11,024 at Red Bull Arena, nost of them Greeks who had created a wonderful atmosphere.

Greece had last won in that November 3-1 triumph over Romania in a European qualifier.

"Normally, we score,» Greece's Portuguese coach Fernando Santos said through a translator. «It's not a relief (to score). I would say we're satisfied because we capitalized on the opportunities that we made.

"Today we had the opportunities and we scored. The other games we had some opportunities, but unfortunately we didn't score."

Bolivia, which finished last in South American World Cup qualifying with Paraguay, extended its winless string to 11 matches. It has not won since a 2-1 victory over Haiti in a friendly on Feb. 6, 2013.

Greece had the better of play early, creating several chances, but was plagued by poor finishing. Fanis Gekas had the most egregious miss in the 12th minute as Greece tried to capitalize on a midfield turnover.

Giorgos Samaras fed Gekas in the middle of the penalty area, and, unmarked, the 34-year-old striker spun and shot wide from 7 yards.

Greece finally converted when Dimitris Salpingidis chased a ball down on the left and was allowed to approach the penalty area unchallenged. He chipped a ball into the middle, where an unmarked Kone drove it into the right side of the net from 10 yards.

The Greeks continued to dominate in the second half and added a second when Jose Holebas curled a corner kick to the near post, and Katsouranis headed it into the far side netting.

"It was a mediocre performance from our perspective,» Santos added. «From a tactical standpoint, we let our opponent have too much possession of the ball."

Bolivia outshot Greece in the first half but did not create a particularly dangerous chance until the 58th minute. Juan Carlos Arce was able to break in alone on goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis, but rolled his shot a yard wide of the right post.

The Bolivians scored in the 70th when second-half substitute Rudy Cardozo hit a left-footed shot from 32 yards that Karnezis appeared to have covered, but inexplicably let go by at the right post.

"In the first 20-25 minutes of the game we made a couple of mistakes, especially in defense,» Bolivia coach Xabier Azkargorta said. «After that we started doing better, but Greece was attacking through the sides.

"After that the central forwards started attacking more, and that's when we suffered."

Greece opens the World Cup against Colombia on June 14, and then will play Japan and the Ivory Coast in Group C.

[AP]

ekathimerini.com , Saturday June 7, 2014 (08:17)  
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