SPORTS

Greece risks seed after 1-1 draw with Ecuador

Greece drew 1-1 with Ecuador after a modest display in a friendly in New York on June 7, and risks missing out on getting seeded for the 2014 World Cup draw next month.

Alexandros Tziolis?s goal was not enough for the national team to win in front of as many as 20,000 Greeks at Citi Field in the Big Apple, the home of baseball franchise the New York Mets.

Friendly matches also count toward the official FIFA ranking and Greece could lose its position among Europe?s top nine teams by the July 31 draw if France or Norway score friendly victories before then.

The players of manager Fernando Santos appeared tired, three days after Greece?s victory over Malta for the Euro 2012 qualifiers, allowing Ecuador to enjoy more possession while trying to threaten in counterattacks.

As a result they could not hold on to their first-half lead and had little to offer in attack after conceding the equalizer in the second.

Santos fielded a much-changed team to the one that won 3-1 on June 4 in Piraeus.

It had Stefanos Kotsolis in goal, Yiannis Maniatis on the left side of the defense and Loukas Vyntra on the right, with an unchanged central defender duo of Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Vangelis Moras.

Pantelis Kafes and Tziolis were the defensive midfielders, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Panayiotis Kone were on the wings, and Giorgos Fotakis was behind Greece?s lone striker Costas Mitroglou.

The Greek fans may have been outnumbered by those of Ecuador at the 45,000-capacity ground, but they managed to make up for it in volume.

Their loudest cheer came in the 16th minute when a Fotakis free kick flew toward Tziolis at the edge of the six-yard box. The Racing Santander midfielder rose unchallenged to head the ball in and make it 1-0.

Greece had two or three more chances in the first half, as Ecuador enjoyed more possession but seemed toothless in attack.

The best first-half chance for Ecuador, which is preparing for the Copa America that starts on July 1, came two minutes from half-time when a Michael Arroyo free kick was parried by Kotsolis.

The South Americans started the second half much stronger and put more pressure on the Greece goal that soon translated into the equalizer.

It was the 58th minute when Fricson Erazo headed in from just three meters away an Edison Mendez cross from the left, in what was probably the only instance that the otherwise excellent Greek defense was caught napping.

Being aware that Greece needed to win this exhibition game, Santos responded immediately by making four substitutions in three minutes, bringing on Sotiris Ninis, Giorgos Karagounis, Yiannis Fetfatzidis and Stefanos Athanasiadis.

Yet all Greece got to create in this last half-hour was a Fetfatzidis free kick that swerved just wide of Ecuador’s right post in the 72nd, and a Ninis one-on-one with Ecuador keeper Alexander Dominguez that had the Greek shoot straight at him two minutes from time.