An own goal sufficed for Greece to beat Finland 1-0 in Athens on Thursday, but did not suffice to avert Greece’s elimination from the Nations League, on the debut of coach Angelos Anastasiadis on the Greece bench.
This score was not enough to maintain alive Greece’s hopes for the top spot ion the pool, as it cannot catch Finland anymore due to an inferior head-to-head record – it had lost 2-0 at Tampere last month. However it will signal a positive start to the new era for the team, with a Greek coach on a permanent basis after a very long time.
The most positive news from the game for Greece concerns the energy and determination the Greek players showed, an element that had gone missing in the last few games under German manager Michael Skibbe. Anastasiadis will be happier about this than the actual result of the match.
Greece scored its goal after 24 minutes when Vassilis Torosidis ran down the left flank of the Finnish defense and crossed the ball inside the box to the path of Dimitris Pelkas, whose close-range shot was parried by goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky, but the ball went back over the goal line off the foot of hapless Albin Granlund.
The hosts created more chances, and so did the Finns in a fairly balanced game, but no more goals came despite the pressure Greece applied particularly in the last half-hour to find the second goal it needed.
The game also marked the successful debut of Benfica goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos in Greece’s goal.
Up next Greece hosts Estonia on Sunday for its final game in the group. It will miss defender Costas Manolas who was substituted during the first half on Thursday due to a sprained ankle, but the Suunday match is only a formality as Finland has already won the group.