By George Georgakopoulos
The national team dropped its first points in its campaign to qualify to the 2014 World Cup as it drew 0-0 at home with Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday in Piraeus.
The result means that the Bosnians, and not the Greeks, are now the number 1 favorites to win the group and advance directly to the finals in Brazil without having to negotiate a playoff.
In front of some 25,000 enthusiastic fans that almost filled the Karaiskakis Stadium to capacity, the players of coach Fernando Santos were cautious in defense, against a team that had scored 12 goals in its first couple of games, but not so spectacular in attack.
Greece was also unlucky in that it struck the woodwork twice in the first half, the first time with Fanis Gekas in the fifth and the second with Vassilis Torosidis in the 33rd. In between, Bosnia also got a good chance that Yiannis Maniatis cleared on the goal line with his head.
Despite its two big moments in the first half, Greece showed some problems in creating chances, given it started the game with three defensive midfielders: Costas Katsouranis, Alexandros Tziolis and Maniatis.
The introduction of Dimitris Salpigidis in the second half provided the national team with some width in attack. It was actually the PAOK player who missed Greece’s biggest opportunity in the second half as he broke free in the box with only keeper Asmir Begovic to beat, but the Stoke City stopper saved Bosnia 10 minutes from time.
The match was historic, however, for midfielder Giorgos Karagounis, who came on as a second-half substitute to reach a record 121 caps, ahead of Theo Zagorakis’s 120.
The national team is now tied on top of the table with Bosnia and Slovakia with seven points from three games.
Greece’s next game is on Tuesday at Slovakia.