Greece pulled one out of the hat when they defeated the as-yet unbeaten Swedish team 2-1 in Athens and revive hopes of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar next year.
It was the Greek’s first victory in their Group B campaign on the back of three draws.
Anastasios Bakasetas opened the scoring in the 62nd minute of the game and Vangelis Pavlidis extended the lead 12 minutes later when he received the ball from Christos Tzolis.
Robin Quaison pulled one back for Sweden in the 80th minute but his team could not add more to their tally.
The English “Eastern Press Daily” said the 71st minute introduction to the game of the previously injured Christos Tzolis was a pivotal moment in the match. Three minutes after coming on, Tzolis was played behind the Swedish defence to speed past their defenders and lay the ball on for Pavlidis to score the second goal that was given after a VAR check for offside.
Tzolis again impressed when in injury time he ran the ball from the Greek half to shoot on goal only for the Sweden’s Victor Lindelof to deflect the shot to safety.
Tzolis,19, who had joined the Greek squad for the latest round of qualifications with a calf injury he had picked up playing for Norwich City, was not played until yesterday.
His Norwich teammate, left-back Dimitris Giannoulis, did not play against Sweden because of a neck injury he picked up in practice on Tuesday.
The game against Sweden played at the Olympic Stadium in Athens was a make-or-break one not only for the Greek world cup campaign but also for manager John van’t Schip whose future according to Kathimerini, was reportedly under threat.
On the statistical side, the Greeks had 15 shots on goal to Sweden’s 17. Both had five shots on target. At 51 percent, the Swedes enjoyed slightly more possession of the ball and completed 412 passes to Greece’s 394. Greece had a slightly better pass accuracy of 77 percent to Sweden’s 76 percent. The Swedes received four yellow cards to Greece’s two even through the Greeks committed 12 fouls to Sweden’s 11.
Kosovo, which drew with Greece and leapfrogged to third in Group B on 5 September, were beaten 2-0 at home by a Spanish side still smarting from a 2-1 defeat to the Swedes last Friday. It was Spain’s first defeat in world cup qualifiers since 1993.
The standings in Group B are: Spain on 13 points, Sweden (9), Greece (6), Kosovo (4), and Georgia (1). Greece and Sweden have games in hand.
Greece, which courtesy of the victory and three draws is Group B’s only unbeaten side, next travel to Georgia on 10 October for their seventh match in their Group B qualification campaign.