Greece ended up goalless with Hungary in Budapest on Sunday, on manager Sergio Markarian’s debut on the national team’s bench, a result that has left Greece at the bottom of its Euro 2016 qualifying group with two points.
The Greeks were considerably fresher than in the four previous games, under manager Claudio Ranieri, and definitely tighter at the back, but have remained winless with half of the group games played.
Uruguayan Markarian opted for a Christmas-tree formation (4-3-2-1) with Athanasiadis alone up front, assisted by Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Yiannis Fetfatzidis at the flanks.
In the first half Greece insisted on constant attacks from the right through the penetrations by crafty Fetfatzidis, while his overlapping with right-back Vassilis Torosidis made life more difficult for Hungary’s left-back Leandro.
At the same time the Greek midfield often leaked, allowing the Hungarians through the area on several occasions, but the hosts’ finishing touch was rather disappointing from their point of view.
After a barren first half Greece upped its pressure on the hosts missing four chances in the first eight minutes of the second half thanks to the major improvement of the Greek midfield.
The biggest chance for Greece came on the 69th minute when Athanasiadis failed to connect with a cross from the left with the goal at his mercy.
Greek keeper Orestis Karnezis came to the national team’s rescue three minutes from the end by palming over the bar a speculative shot by Levadiakos’s Adam Pinter. Seconds later Nemanja Nikolic wasted Hungary’s biggest chance from close range.
“The lads made a great effort, we deserved victory by at least two clear goals,” Markarian said after the game.
The result may have not pleased the 700 or so travelling fans, but they will be aware that a new era has started for the Greek national team.
Greece’s next game is not before June, at the Faroe Islands.