NICOSIA – Greek coach Nicos Nioplias has his work cut out resurrecting a free-falling Cyprus side after they were trounced 3-0 at home to Finland on Wednesday night.
The defeat at the GSP Stadium capped off yet another disastrous year for the national team and Nioplias has now recorded just two wins (a 3-2 friendly win against Moldova and 1-0 qualifying win against Iceland) in his first 11 games since taking over the Cyprus job from his predecessor Angelos Anastasiades in September last year.
Cyprus were hoping to use the friendly against Finland on Wednesday as useful test ahead of their next qualifier against group leaders Switzerland which takes place on March 23 next year.
But the performance and the defeat instead presented Nioplias with a new headache as Cyprus failed miserably in defence and look short of ideas going forward.
Finland, on the other hand, showed why they are 30 places above as they raced into a routine 2-0 lead. Star striker Teemu Pukki – who plays for Schalke - got the ball rolling on 14 minutes before Perparim Hetemaj of Chievo doubled the lead before the half-hour from the penalty spot.
Nioplias made six changes after the restart including senior debuts to Olympiakos Nicosia forward Pieros Sotiriou and former Cyprus under-21 captain Marios Antoniades but it was not enough to change the scoreline as Finland rubbed salt on Cyprus’ wounds with a third goal towards the end from Toni Kolehmainen.