Greece secured a top-two finish in its World Cup qualifying group by beating Latvia 1-0 on Tuesday, which means it will either finish second, as it currently is, and negotiate a play-off to advance to the 2014 finals, or win the group and qualify directly to Brazil.
The Greeks remained level on points at the top of the pool with Bosnia after the latter came from 1-0 down to beat Slovakia 2-1 away. The Bosnians lead the table on a superior goal difference.
Following a very entertaining first half that saw Greece dominate the game completely at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium, Dimitris Salpigidis broke the deadlock 13 minutes after the interval with a clinical finish after a great solo effort by Giorgos Samaras. This meant that it was the two strikers who had missed last Friday’s win at Liechtenstein through suspension that combined to give Greece the lead.
Greece seemed more tired in the second half and Latvia threatened the Orestis Karnezis goal a couple of times, but the Greek defense held firm for yet another clean sheet: Greece has conceded just four goals in eight games in the group.
Ritvars Rugins left Latvia with 10 men five minutes from the end after a tussle with Costas Katsouranis, which also had the Greece skipper booked. In injury time Katsouranis was booked again to get sent off, and passed the captain’s armband over to substitute Giorgos Karagounis.
A very positive element of the game was the relatively high attendance in Piraeus, with about 20,000 fans watching Greece’s victory.
Greece’s following match is on October 11 against Slovakia at home. Slovakia’s loss to Bosnia means it has nothing left to play for.