Costas Mitroglou redeemed himself and the rest of the national team, scoring Greece’s sole goal at Liechtenstein on Friday, but this 1-0 win was ever so precious for the Greeks as it has taken them up to joint top of their World Cup qualifying group alongside Bosnia-Herzegovina.
This has given fresh hope to Greece that it might finish top of its group and go straight to the 2014 finals if it betters Bosnia’s results in the three remaining games.
The Bosnians suffered their first loss in the campaign, going down 1-0 at home to Slovakia on Friday, but have a far better goal difference than Greece. Only the top team of the group qualifies automatically to the finals in Brazil, with the second having to negotiate a two-leg play-off in November.
The players of Fernando Santos had to sweat before they beat the minnows of the tiny principality in central Europe, who were actually coming from two games without defeat.
The national team had Santos livid as it wasted the first half at Vaduz, producing very little in attack, but the second half was completely different.
Greece stormed into the game after the reprisal and started missing one chance after another, continuing unabated by the second yellow card to Jose Holebas in the 59th minute; in fact both of his cards were totally needless. Yet Liechtenstein was also reduced to 10 men seven minutes on due to the second bookable offense of David Hasler.
Eventually a long ball across the field by Costas Katsouranis in the 72nd minute found Vassilis Torosidis on the left wing. The Roma defender slid the ball into the box, with Mitroglou slotting it in from the edge of the six-yard area to make amends for the numerous chances he had wasted up to that minute.
Greece also hit the woodwork twice in the second half, on either side of Mitroglou’s goal, first through Katsouranis and then through substitute Sotiris Ninis.
The Greeks clearly lacked the firepower of suspended strikers Giorgos Samaras and Dimitris Salpingidis, but they will both be back for Tuesday’s game in Piraeus against Latvia.
Greek fans dominated the stands at Vaduz, outshouting the home support and giving a desperately needed boost to the players when they needed it the most.