Greek Under-19s earn 0-0 draw with Spain and advance to the semifinals

Greece ensured its passage to the semifinals of the European Under-19 soccer championship in Austria thanks to a 0-0 draw with Spain on Saturday. Nikos Nioplias’s team will meet Germany tomorrow for a spot in the final. The draw would have made both Spain and Greece happy, so neither team showed much interest in going all out for victory. The second half in particular was so uninteresting that a number of spectators in the stands started jeering and whistling at both sides. Spain, the holders, were more impressive in the first half and missed a few chances to take the lead, although they would have topped the group even with a draw. Greece played a more defensive game, dictated also by the fact that key players Apostolos Androutsos and Elin Dimoutsos were not available. Yet the game’s biggest chance fell to Greece when Yiannis Papadopoulos was fouled inside the box, earning Greece a penalty. Costas Mitroglou, scorer of both Greece’s goals in the tournament so far, stepped up but his kick was too weak to beat Spain’s goalkeeper Felipe Ramos. Greece finished second in the group, ahead of Portugal and hosts Austria, and will play the Germans at Steyr at 6.30 p.m. tomorrow. Spain will play France in the other semifinal at Pasching. Nioplias was particularly satisfied after the Spain game, telling reporters that it was «a major achievement for the national team, as it is the first time we have qualified for the semifinals of this competition.» He did warn, however, that «we will have no chance in the semifinal if we play the same way that we did against Spain.» Meanwhile Sotiris Ninis, the star of the U19 team, featured in an interview with Madrid sports newspaper As yesterday, which confirmed that the 17-year-old Panathinaikos player is being closely watched by Real Madrid.

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