Last night at Red Bull Arena, Greece scored goals, one in each half. After two scoreless draws, it was enough to give them the win over Bolivia, but it was a performance that was not enough to truly establish them as strong contenders in their group.
Except for one change to the Greek team to open the second half, it was the same starting line that was on the pitch for both goals, and created the most opportunities for Greece in the match. Orestis Karnezis was in goal start to finish and was challenged by the Bolivia team, at best, a handful of times. Kostas Manolas, Vangelis Moras, Vassilis Torosidis, Jose Cholebas started in defense, with Loukas Vyntra replacing Kostas Manolas in the 45th minute. Giannis Maniatis, and Panagiotis Kone and Kostas Katsouranis (captain) started in midfield with Georgios Samaras, Dimitris Salpingidis and Theofanis Gekas up front.
Coach Fernando Santos, in a strange post-match press conference, spoke of the versatility of his squad to play multiple roles. The first half and part way through the second was a strong example. Georgios Samaras appeared to be everywhere. He was aggressive on the ball and put himself in strong positions to make something happen when he was not. Strong on the front and dropping back, he made use of the length of the field expertly. Wherever Samaras was not, Panagiotis Kone somehow appeared. If Samaras used the field’s length, Kone used the width, and his header in the 21st minute ended the team’s scoreless drought. But it was more than scoring that he brought to the game. He was fire personified. Defender Jose Cholebas was involved, as he moved the play forward on the left. As Cholebas went forward, mirrored by Vassilis Torosidis on the right, the midfield dropped back into defense so that there was an impression of circular motion within the team. It was Cholebas’ corner that produced the second goal. These three shone.
The players that finished the match for the Greek side, the five substitutions that were made beginning in the 59th minute, really brought nothing to the game. The only substitute that actually did change the game was Bolivia’s Rudy Cardozo. Brought on to begin the second half, he scored their goal in the 70th minute that halved Greece’s lead after a shot from distance caught Orestis Karnezis off guard.
Starting forward Theofanis Gekas had opportunities to score that were wasted, and Kostas Mitroglou, substituted on in the 65th minute was disappointingly flat. He moved along at a trot, attempting to interfere in passing lanes rather than trying to reclaim the ball and upset the Bolivia build-ups. Ioannis Fetfatizidis, hailed as the Greek Messi, lost the ball after his first tentative touches.