Back on track after painfully slow start

Greece’s 3-1 home win against Kazakhstan in Wednesday night’s World Cup qualifier offered a glimmer of hope following a subdued start by the squad. The national team, now with five points from four games, has a tough task ahead if it is to make up the gap separating it from front runner Ukraine, now on 11 points from five games following an impressive 3-0 away win against Turkey. Three teams are on six points: Turkey and Denmark, after four games, and Albania after an additional fifth game. As was the case Wednesday, Greece will be looking for nothing but a win from its next encounter, once again at home against the Danes on February 9. On the same night, Albania will greet Ukraine in Tirana. Besides serving its own interests, Albania would also do Greece a great favor by defeating Ukraine, which has broken away at this early stage. After a recent 1-1 draw in Kiev, Greece is due to meet Ukraine at home next summer, on June 6, four days after facing Turkey in Istanbul. Looking ahead, midfielder Vassilis Tsiartas, in comments made yesterday on local radio station Super Sport FM, noted that, as things currently stand, Greece was responsible for its own fate. Commenting on Turkey’s 3-0 defeat against Ukraine at home, Tsiartas said he was surprised by the result. «I don’t know whether the result’s positive or negative,» said Tsiartas. «This is a tricky group. We’ve got to take it step by step and reach the level of consistency displayed during our qualifying campaign for Euro 2004.» Tsiartas, the national team’s only player without a club after he severed ties with AEK, confirmed yesterday that he had been involved in talks with German club Cologne FC.