This week saw the culmination of Euro 2016 qualification. As far as Greece were concerned it was a qualifying campaign to forget. Many Thrylos players from other European nations fared much better in their quests to reach France this coming summer.
After the relative highs of last summer’s world cup, no one expected Greece’s Euros qualification to turn out quite the way it did. This single campaign saw two permanent managers come and go in that time and the team only manage to register a single win. Even that win came in the final match, after any possibility of qualification had long been put to bed. The side somehow managed to find the net on four occasions during that game, sadly very much a case of too little, too late. Quite frankly, losing both home and away to relative footballing minnows, Northern Ireland and the Faroe Islands, is totally unacceptable. It was these four games that ensured that Greece – the group’s highest seeds and favourites at the qualification’s start – had no chance of even finishing third to have hope of reaching the tournament through the back door of the play-offs. There is eleven months now until the world cup qualification campaign starts, in these coming months it is vital that the EPO take the required time to pay attention to exactly what went wrong, and more importantly start to take the steps to rectify this and stand a chance in the next set of qualifiers. Greece’s world ranking has plummeted in the 15 months since Brazil and as a result our seeding for future draws has also fallen. We must find some stability and start clawing back not only our pride but the essential coefficient points. Just over a decade on from being the champions of Europe, Greece are looking at a real possibility of taking a backward step and in danger of becoming a footballing minnow ourselves. A return to the dark days of not qualifying for major tournaments. The hard work starts now.
A number of Thrylos stars were in international action over the last week’s fixtures. Pajtim Kasami featured in both of Switzerland’s games. Kasami played the full 90 minutes in the Swiss’ 7-0 triumph over San Marino, even getting himself in on the scoring act and grabbing himself a goal. Having already qualified for the tournament, Switzerland ended their campaign with a 1-0 win away at Estonia. Kasami took to the field as a substitute for the final ten minutes in that match.
This season’s star man, Jimmy Durmaz, had a bittersweet international break. His nation ensured a play-off place after finishing third in their group behind an impressive Austria and Russia. Durmaz started the first match for Sweden and was even able to set up Panathinaikos’ Marcus Berg for the opening goals. His joy was short lived though, Durmaz was taken off with twenty minutes of the match remaining as a result of an injury. The injury meant he missed out on featuring in their final match. Initial suggestions were that the player would be out of action for around 7-10 days, he is likely to miss this weekend’s derby with AEK but should return to the squad when the league action resumes after next week’s Champions League clash with Zagreb.
Serbia missed out on qualification, finishing 4th in their group with a poor four points. Luka Milivojevic played every minute in his country’s two games. In their final match, Serbia were reduced to nine men in an ill disciplined match against Portugal, in which they were 2-1 losers as their campaign came to a disappointing end.
Omar Elabdellaoui and Norway will be involved in next month’s play-offs after finishing third in their group. They went down to Italy 2-1 in their final match meaning they will need to overcome another two matches with success if they are to reach the finals. Omar played the full 90 minutes in their game against Malta and received widespread praise for his performance. Elabdellaoui is fast making a name for himself as one of Norway’s brightest stars.
Alfred Finnbogason is another Thrylos player who will be happy to see his side reach Euro 2016. Iceland finished their group in second place after an extremely good campaign finishing above the likes of Turkey and Netherlands. Finnbogason played the first 69 minutes against Latvia but was unable to find the net. Never the less, Finnbogason will undoubtedly return to the club a very happy player after his country’s historic achievement, which can only be of benefit to Olympiakos.
The draw for the play offs takes place this Sunday with the two legged matches taking place mid-November. Once the play-off winners are know they will join the teams that have already qualified automatically and the draw for the tournament proper will take place on 12th December.