Greek squad flies to New York
National team to play Ecuador after Malta victory that kept it on top
Greece’s national soccer team flew yesterday to the United States where it will face Ecuador in the early hours of Wednesday, Greek time, after downing Malta 3-1 on Saturday for the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Although the match against Ecuador is a friendly, it has special significance for Greece as victory will ensure it will be among Europe’s top-10 teams in the FIFA rankings and get seeded for the World Cup qualifying group draw next month.
The players of coach Fernando Santos will be facing the South Americans at the Citi Field in New York, with Greek-American central defender George John joining the national team for their training sessions.
The Greeks will be boosted by their good performance against lowly Malta in Piraeus that saw them stay on top of their group with four matches left to play.
Greece took the lead after in the eighth minute through a swift team move from the right with Giorgos Karagounis, Sotiris Ninis and a pinpoint cross by Vassilis Torosidis into the path of Fetfatzidis, who scored with ease from the penalty spot.
The second goal came in the 26th minute as a Giorgos Karagounis free kick found debutant Papadopoulos in the box, and he slotted it home to celebrate with tears in his eyes.
Each side had a goal correctly disallowed as offside in the first half, by Dimitris Salpigidis for Greece and Michael Mifsud for Malta.
It was Mifsud, though, who pulled one back for the Maltese nine minutes into the second half as the Greek defense was caught in possession.
Malta came close to scoring an equalizer at the stroke of the hour as Andre Schembri’s shot hit the woodwork.
Greece restored its two-goal advantage in the 63rd minute as a great cross from the right by Salpigidis was spilled by Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg into the path of Fetfatzidis, who made no mistake from close range.
Greece has 14 points, Croatia and Israel 13, Georgia is on nine, Latvia has four while Malta is still without a point.
Consequently Greece’s next match, in Israel on September 2, is crucial for its future in the group.