NICOSIA - Cyprus boss Nicos Nioplias has played down expectations as his side aim to build on their recent win over Iceland by beating Slovenia on their own turf on Friday night before then facing Norway in Cyprus on Tuesday.
“A victory always lifts the spirits of everyone”, said the Greek coach. “However, we shouldn’t get too overexcited. We need to stay grounded if we are to achieve the best possible result. Obviously, the perfect result for us would be a victory. We need to have faith and to be properly prepared to achieve that goal.”
Speaking about the fact that seven key players will miss out for Cyprus, he noted, “We have some problems with players missing but we are obliged to look at all of the players at our disposal. Those who are fit will be prepared for what will be a very tough game.
“Slovenia has yet to win a point from their first two games, they are playing at home and they will be aiming for a new start – something which makes our job that more difficult. They are a team with experience, who have participated in major tournaments and we will need to be very cautious against them.”
One key player who returns to the squad after overcoming his injury is Omonia midfielder George Efrem
“We are ready to face the challenges of these two games. We have some notable absences but, as a team, we are expected to fill the gaps. Confidence is high at the moment so we will be aiming for a positive result.”
Nioplias has been forced to reshuffle his squad with five key players set to miss both games against Slovenia and Norway.
This week, Metalurh Donetsk’s Constantinos Makrides – who stole the show in the win over Iceland, APOEL’s Nektarios Alexandrou, Omonia’s Andreas Avraam and Apollon’s George Merkis all failed fitness tests by Cyprus team doctor George Economides after failing to recover from their respective injuries.
Nioplias will also be missing French-born playmaker Vincent Laban who will be serving a yellow card suspension for the first game in Maribor. The Anorthosis midfielder will be available for Tuesday’s game against Norway in Larnaca.
The absences have prompted Nioplias to call up two players from the Cyprus under-21 squad – Costakis Artymatas from Enosis Neon Paralimniou and Olympiakos Nicosia forward Pieros Sotiriou.
The Greek coach does welcome back Antonis Georgallides after the Alki goalkeeper missed the win against Iceland and the second half against Albania with a knee injury.
Goalkeepers: Antonis Georgallides (Alki), Tasos Kissas (APOEL), Christakis Mastrou (Anorthosis)
Defenders: Jason Demetriou (AEK), Dosa Junior (AEL), Valentinos Sielis (Anorthosis), Anthos Solomou (APOEL), Angelis Charalambous (Apollon), Elias Charalambous (Vaslui), Costakis Artymatas (Enosis), Paraskevas Christou (Universitatea), Stelios Parpas (AEL)
Midfielders: Christos Marangos (AEK), Marios Nicolaou (AEL), Constantinos Charalambides (APOEL), Sinisa Dobrasinovic (Zhetysu), George Efrem (Omonia), Vincent Laban (Anorthosis), George Vasiliou (Apollon)
Forwards: Nestor Mytides (AEK), Michalis Constantinou (AEL), Stathis Aloneftis (APOEL), Pieros Sotiriou (Olympiakos N.), Demetris Christofi (Omonia)