NEWS

Greeks get closer to World Cup

Greece moved a step closer to the 2010 soccer World Cup in South Africa thanks to a 1-1 draw in Israel on Saturday but will now need to beat the Israelis in Crete on Wednesday if it wants to firm up its chances of qualification. The draw at the Ramat Gan Stadium in Tel Aviv leaves Greece joint top of its qualification group with Switzerland after five matches. Halfway through the qualification games, the Greeks and the Swiss both have 10 points. Israel is just a point behind, which means that there is a great deal riding on the return game between the two sides at the Pankritio Stadium on Wednesday. «We have to win the game on Wednesday,» said striker Fanis Gekas who scored the opening goal on Saturday. «Only a win will do. We are only interested in all three points.» Gekas, who has yet to play for his English side Portsmouth since joining in January, saw his teammates squander two injury time chances to win the game. «We could have won the game but we could have lost as well,» he said. «We expected more from Israel and we really had a chance to win here. We thought they would be better and put more pressure on us.» Greece coach Otto Rehhagel agreed that his players could have returned victorious but that Israel threatened to win the game in the second half. Israel has lost only one competitive game at home in the last 10 years but Greece looked the better side in the first half and was rewarded in the 42nd minute when the home defense failed to clear a free-kick. When the ball was headed back into the area, Gekas pounced to poke the ball home. Israel equalized in the 56th minute when its best move of the game led to Omer Golan sliding in to push the ball past Costas Chalkias in goal. Greece survived late pressure from Israel and then had two wonderful opportunities to grab the win in added time. First, substitute Christos Patsatzoglou saw his fierce shot saved and then from the ensuing corner, Angelos Charisteas headed wide from close range.