SPORTS

Northern Ireland busts ghost of Greece to qualify to Euro 2016

northern-ireland-busts-ghost-of-greece-to-qualify-to-euro-2016

The sorry ghost of the 2004 European champion that is the national soccer team of Greece was once again busted by Northern Ireland, this time in Belfast, as the host celebrated its first qualification to a major finals, those of the Euro 2016, since 1982 with a 3-1 win over the hapless Greek visitors.

The emphatic result leaves little to say for the team of caretaking coach Costas Tsanas, though it really is painful to see so much talent going to waste due to the mentality, teamwork and preparation problems.

Greece remained winless for the ninth game in his campaign, suffering one more bad night that should be put behind as soon as possible.

Fully deserving their win and their place in the finals in France, the hosts sliced the Greek defense like an onion on the 35th minute for 1-0, as a diagonal pass to the right by Corry Evans – that Jose Holebas misjudged – found Stuart Dallas at the edge of the box; he crossed the ball to an unmarked Steven Davis who scored a sitter from close range.

Greece missed its best chance at the end of the first half, as Nikos Karelis had his shot blocked, the ball went to the edge of the box, Costas Mitroglou pounded it goalward but eventually it hit the upright of goalkeeper Michael McGovern.

Then barely four minutes into the second half Josh Magennis received the ball from a corner from the right and lobbed a header perfectly just below the crossbar to make it 2-0 in a delirious Windsor Park.

It took another 14 minutes for Northern Ireland to make it 3-0, as after a corner kick from the left by Chris Brunt was cleared by Andreas Samaris toward Davis, the Irish captain sent a rare 20-yard header straight into the Orestis Karnezis net.

Christos Aravidis scored Greece’s consolation goal four minutes from the end by turning in a cross from the right by Vassilis Torosidis. That was the first Greece goal for Aravidis.

The last act in Greece’s tragedy of a qualifying campaign will be Sunday’s home game against Hungary in Piraeus: The last chance for Greece to notch up a win.