Greece visit Dublin on Friday as Ireland attempt to avenge a 2-1 defeat in Athens in June.
The Greek national team are controlled by the Hellenic Football Federation, the governing body for football in Greece. Traditionally the team is referred to as Ethniki, which means ‘National’ or Galanolefki which means ‘Blue/white’.
The first official match (recognised by FIFA) of the Greek national side was against Sweden in the 1920 Summer Games in Antwerp. This resulted in a heavy defeat, with Greece losing 9-0.
Between 1929 and 1936, Greece took part in six Balkan Cups. Between 1949 and 1958 they participated in three Mediterranean Cups. In 1951 Greece won the Mediterranean Games, defeating both Syria and then hosts Egypt on their way to the title.
Greece’s first appearance at a major tournament was at Euro 1980 in Italy. Although they finished bottom of their group with one point, they did secure a highly creditable 0-0 draw against the eventual winners West Germany.
They failed to qualify for the next six consecutive tournaments, before qualifying for the 1994 World Cup in the USA, where again they finished bottom of their group, as they were soundly beaten by Argentina, Bulgaria, and Nigeria. Their following two World Cup Finals appearances (in 2010 and 2014) resulted in group stage elimination and then an exit in the round of 16.
Greece’s finest hour came when they won the 2004 European Championship. Under the guidance of Coach Otto Rehhagel, the Greeks pulled off a miracle, defeating the hosts Portugal not once, but twice in the tournament, winning the final 1-0 with a goal from Angelos Charisteas. They then qualified for a further two European Championships in 2008 (eliminated in the group stages) and in 2012 (knocked out in the quarter finals).
The Greek National Team are currently ranked 51st in the world (between Ivory Coast and Paraguay). With an average ranking of 31st, their highest ranking was 8th and their lowest was 66th. Their record appearance holder is Giorgos Karagounis with 139 caps and record goal scorer is Nikos Anastopolous with 29 goals.
They are currently coached by former Tottenham and Chelsea midfielder Gus Poyet. Tbe highest scorer in the qualifiers in the squad is Giorgos Masouras with 4 goals. Expect to see them line out in a 4-3-3 formation.
The Greeks had a successful campaign in the 2022/2023 iteration of the Nations League, securing promotion to League B by topping their group ahead of Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and Cyprus, and currently sit in 3rd place in European Championship Qualifying Group B with three wins and two defeats. For the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, the Greeks play their games at the OPAP Arena (Agia Sophia Stadium) in Nea Filadelfeia, which is the Home of AEK Athens. With a capacity of 32,500 the stadium is the third largest in Greece.
After the game against Ireland, Greece will play the Netherlands in a qualifier in Athens on Monday 16th October 2023.
Greece Form Guide (last twelve games) – WWLWDLWDWLLW
Head-to-head – Ireland have played Greece four times, drawing one and losing three.
Last meeting – Stephen Kenny’s side suffered a disappointing 2-1 loss on 16th June 2023 which was a big blow to Irelands hopes of qualifying for Euro 2024.
Ireland started tentatively, and Gavin Bazunu was called into action twice in the opening minutes of the game, firstly to deny Dinos Mavropanos and then to turn away an effort from the industrious Anastasios Bakasetas. Greek captain Bakasetas then opened the scoring with a first-half penalty after Callum O’Dowda’s handball.
Ireland were level on the half hour mark when Brighton hot shot Evan Ferguson headed on Will Smallbone’s corner for Nathan Collins to slam home from close range. The goal was initially ruled out for offside, but VAR came to Irelands rescue.
Two long range efforts then gave Bazunu some concern before Greece were back in the lead when the excellent Bakasetas took three Ireland players out of the game with a clever defence splitting pass to release Masouras. The Greek winger curled the ball into the net despite the efforts of Collins on the line.
Matt Doherty missed a good chance to level but fired wide at the near post from Smallbone’s cross. Ireland’s next chance came on 72 minutes when Doherty set up Collins for a drive that was parried away by the Greece goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos.
Greece then missed a couple of big chances to kill the game off, including one for former Celtic striker Giorgios Giakoumakis.
In all, Ireland managed just six shots, compared to Greece’s sixteen. A disappointing night on the pitch was then compounded by Matt Doherty’s red card for violent conduct as he scrapped with Greece’s players in the last moments of the game.
Conclusion – With Stephen Kenny fighting to hold on to his job, this game is a must win for the Manager and the team will be determined to put in a much better performance than they did in Athens. The return of Even Ferguson will boost Ireland and fans will be hoping to catch a glimpse of Sammie Szmodics in action. Prediction – 2-1 win for Ireland.