Greece defeats Belarus

Playing his debut game for the national senior team, the highly rated young striker Giorgos Samaras scored Greece’s only goal in a friendly match against Belarus last night to help his side win 1-0 in its opening game of an eight-nation tournament in Cyprus. Samaras, who recently transferred to English Premiership club Manchester City from Dutch team Heerenveen in an 8.8-million-euro deal, found the net in the 14th minute after his shot at goal was deflected past the opposition’s keeper. The national team, looking to rebound in time for the beginning of Euro 2008 qualifying action later this year following its failure to qualify for this summer’s World Cup finals in Germany, played a spirited first half. Belarus improved its performance in the second half and came close to equalizing on several occasions. Captain Thodoris Zagorakis, believed to be contemplating retirement in the near future, led his players throughout the game for yet another sturdy performance with the national side. Greece’s long-serving captain, now 33, has not lived up to expectations in club-level competition with PAOK this season. He transferred to the Thessaloniki club last summer from Italian team Bologna. Greece plays a second and final game in the Cyprus tournament tonight against Kazakhstan, a 3-1 winner over Finland in the group’s other match. Finland and Belarus, the two losing sides, also meet today. In the tournament’s other group, Romania defeated Armenia 2-0, and the host nation lost to Slovenia, 1-0. As is the case in the tournament’s other four-team group, the winning sides of the opening games, Romania and Slovenia, meet today. Cyprus plays Armenia.