Greece scored its first win in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, beating Sweden 2-1 on Wednesday under the gaze of emblematic former manager Otto Rehhagel, who was at the stands of the Olympic Stadium of Athens.
In what was rumored to be its last game with Dutch coach John van’t Schip at the helm, Greece welcomed its fans at the stands after almost two years, and made them happy too.
What the first half lacked in goals it made up for in action and chances missed, including a third-minute shot by Mattias Svanberg that hit the upright.
Then the Greek team thought it had earned a penalty, but the referee revoked his decision as his assistant raised his flag for an offside.
Vangelis Pavlidis also thought he had scored, but his delicate chip was spectacularly stroked away by Swedish goallie Robin Olsen.
Greece finally found a way through just after the hour mark, as Tasos Bakasetas played a one-two with Tasos Douvikas. The latter fed the former with a wonderful side-flick, and Bakasetas stormed into the Swedish area to power the ball into the net.
Then on the 74th minute substitute Christos Tzolis rushed from the left flank all the way down to the finish line to cross the ball to the path of Pavlidis, who made no mistake from close range, in a goal originally disallowed for offside before the VAR confirmed it. Herr Rehhagel could not hide his smile from the VIP stands.
Sweden pulled one back on the 80th, as the long-range effort by Emil Forsberg was palmed by Greece keeper Odysseas Vlachodimos to the path of Robin Quaison, who scored with ease.
The result means Greece has six points from four games, still unbeaten, but also still behind its main rivals for one of the top two spots, as Sweden is on nine points, trailing leader Spain on 13.
Greece is by no means a favorite for qualifying, it remains a rank outsider. But at least the night will be remembered for the passion Greece played with after a very long time.