Greece’s direct qualification dreams for Euro 2024 look all but over after losing to the Netherlands, with their best chance of getting to the tournament now via the play-offs.
The “Ethniki” suffered a 0-1 defeat to the Dutch side at “Agia Sophia” Stadium on Tuesday morning (AEDT) in the eighth matchday of the Euros qualifiers, all but guaranteeing the visitors a place at the European Championship next year.
The hosts held out for the majority of the match with goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos playing a crucial role in protecting his goal, highlighted by a penalty save in the 28th minute when he dived to his left to keep out striker Wout Weghorst’s effort.
Greece pushed forward for a goal as the game entered the final stages, but it was the “Oranje” who would break the deadlock after winning another penalty in injury time.
Captain Virgil Van Dijk stepped up for his team and slotted the ball into the right side of the net for what proved to be the winning goal (90+3’), the result putting them equal with Greece on 12 points with an extra game in hand.
Direct qualification for the Greeks is now almost out of the question, given they would need the Dutch not only to gain less than three points from their games with Ireland and Gibraltar but also to beat France in their last qualifier.
Greece manager Gus Poyet, who was sent off late into the game for his comments towards the ref, was quite complimentary of his team’s efforts despite losing the match, viewing the contest as another match they can learn plenty from.
“It is not my favourite game because we lost, but it is one of my games that will stay with me forever because the convincement of the players, the understanding of how we needed to play this game, it was spectacular,” Mr Poyet said in the post-match press conference.
The Greece coach remarked on his joy at seeing the stadium almost completely filled out, which has been a big focus of his since taking on the role.
He concluded by again stressing the importance of learning from these matches against stronger opposition as these are the sorts of games they must expect if they do indeed make it to next year’s European Championship.
“I don’t want to go to the Euros just to lose. I want to go to compete and today we competed very well,” Mr Poyet said.