Why Greece could surprise again at the World Cup in Brazil
Andrei Arshavin may want to think about giving his old Arsenal teammate Gervinho a call soon, unless he wants the Roma star’s Ivory Coast team to suffer the same fate as Russia did at Euro 2012.
Two years ago, a Russia team managed by Dick Advocaat started the tournament with a bang, winning 4-1 against the Czech Republic in an impressive opening game display.
Ivory Coast enjoyed a similarly positive start to these finals, seeing off a tricky Japan side 2-1 to seemingly put themselves on course for the knockout stages.
But Russia were in that very same boat, until a late equaliser in their second group encounter threw things into jeopardy and Ivory Coast are now living on their nerves after a narrow 2-1 defeat to group favourites Colombia.
And who is waiting for them in the next game? Greece – the very same side that came out of nowhere to upset the odds and dump Russia out.
The Euro 2004 champions are currently 4/1 to qualify, having lost 3-0 to Colombia and drawn 0-0 with Japan in their opening two fixtures.
Yet they were in the very same predicament two years ago after a stalemate with Poland and heavy defeat to the Czech Republic.
It could all come down to one tense and closely fought encounter and for Greece, incredibly, it will only take a 1-0 win to go through.
Fernando Santos’ team had the best defensive record of any side in the UEFA section of qualifying for the World Cup, while their two-leg play-off victory over Romania showcased their ability to get the job done when it really counts, winning 3-1 at home and drawing 1-1 to progress with ease.
The early dismissal of Konstantinos Katsouranis was a big blow against Japan, but Greece did an effective job of containing a Blue Samurai team that came close to beating the Ivory Coast and could have even stolen the victory.
As it is, they remain very much in contention to progress with Japan playing a Colombia team keen to seal top spot in the group, while Ivory Coast await the Greeks. Anything other than a win for the Asian side would leave Greece’s chances in their own hands.
The Elephants have never reached the knockout stages of a World Cup and have a reputation for fluffing their lines on the big stages.
Ivory Coast are also on a run of nine games without a clean sheet and with the likes of Georgios Samaras, Theofanis Gekas and Konstas Mitroglou in their ranks, a 1-0 Greece win could be on the cards.
Arshavin had best make that call.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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