Waterlogged pitch at Iraklion stadium labeled a ‘disgrace’

The national soccer team may have emerged with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Norway in Wednesday night’s friendly international in Iraklion, Crete, but most of the post-match commentary has been focused on the poor condition of the waterlogged pitch. Several local critics said the substandard conditions were a disgrace for a prospective Olympic host city. Greek striker Angelos Charisteas, who plays club soccer with German team Werder Bremen, admitted that the ground conditions were defamatory for the country’s image abroad when asked to comment on the issue during an interview with local radio station Super Sport FM. «The game was held on a ground that was unacceptable for soccer,» Charisteas noted. «The picture we confronted was a sad sight for international soccer, or when playing host to a team like Norway and players the caliber of Solskjaer,» he added, referring to the away team’s star striker and Manchester United player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Charisteas, however, did offer encouraging remarks for the Greek team’s performance. «We played passionately and managed to get the result. But nothing can be said about technique and game plans,» Charisteas said. «Ultimately, all that remains is the passion for victory, at personal and team levels,» he added. Looking forward to Greece’s next Euro 2004 qualifier, a crucial Group 6 encounter against Northern Ireland in Belfast on April 2, Charisteas said a win would put Greece back in contention for a finals berth. Greece, with a win and two losses from three games, is placed third in Group 6, three points behind front runner Spain and two behind second-placed Ukraine. «In Greece, we get excited and disappointed easily. The two negative results prompted everybody to write us off for the next phase,» Charisteas said, referring to the national team’s consecutive losses against Spain at home (in the opening game) and Ukraine in Kiev. «No doubt, qualifying will be tough. But if we do manage to defeat Northern Ireland in our next game, I believe that we will be in contention again,» he added. Northern Ireland, tied at the bottom of Group 6 with Armenia – each have a point from two games – failed to register a victory or score a goal for a sixth consecutive game on Wednesday night. Northern Ireland suffered a 1-0 loss at home in a friendly match against Finland. Northern Ireland last scored a goal a year ago, but lost 4-1 at home in a friendly against Poland.