NICOSIA - Bottom of the group Cyprus will be devoid of attacking options ahead of their qualifier against Slovenia on Tuesday with Stathis Aloneftis suspended and Demetris Christofi racing against time to be fit.
Nicos Nioplias’ side were hopelessly outclassed by Norway in their 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Group E defeat on Friday and will now be looking to salvage some pride with a victory against Slovenia at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia on Tuesday night.
Despite missing Christofi as well as Paraskevas Christou, Elias Charalambous and Constantinos Makrides in the 2-0 defeat in Norway, Cyprus were continuously chasing shadows in the game conceding a shocking 16 corners without winning a single one themselves.
But the biggest problem lay in attack as youngsters Nestoras Mytides and second half substitute Pieros Sotiriou both failed to make any kind of impact.
Cyprus’ sole chances in the game came from Aloneftis early in the first half and substitute Jason Demetriou midway after the interval.
And now with Aloneftis set to miss our as well should FC Sion striker Christofi fail to return to full fitness, Cyprus will be forced to field forwards who have hardly featured for their clubs this season.
Goals in each half from Tarik Elyounoussi and substitute Joshua King were enough for Norway, who are in contention to qualify for the World Cup finals in Brazil, to preserve their perfect record against Cyprus.
Nioplias told reporters after the game that Cyprus had been too scared of their Norwegian hosts although critics argue that it was simply a case of yet another lacklustre performance.
“Congratulations to Norway”, said the former Panathinaikos boss. “We need to show less fear in our and to enjoy our games more. We succeeded in doing that up to a point in the second half but it wasn’t enough to make us avoid the defeat.”
He added, “The victory was fair. We were not good in the first half because we couldn’t hold the ball and as a result our opponents spent of most of their time in our own area. Set pieces are their strong point and they had many of those. We improved in the second half and did our best to try and keep possession. We took a few risks with some changes that we made but then came the second goal.”
Nioplias was last night waiting to see if Christofi and Christou had shrugged off their injuries after both players missed the defeat in Norway. Despite the absence of Aloneftis, the Greek coach welcomes back Doxa defender Charalambous as well as Metalurh Donetsk midfielder Makrides who had both missed Friday’s game in Oslo through suspension.
The players were put through training last night at the GSP Stadium with another training session planned for tomorrow night at the Makarios Stadium with the Slovenian visitors set to train at the GSP Stadium.
Tickets have already gone on sale for the game with prices set at €10 each while the match will also be shown live at 9.30pm on CyBC 2.
Meanwhile Cyprus’ under-21 side will also be looking to bounce in their qualifying section after a 2-1 reverse away to Serbia on Thursday night. They take on Italy on Monday night at the Makarios Stadium in Nicosia with Apostolos Makrides’ side currently third in Group 9.
Luka Milunovic struck twice in six minutes either side of half-time as Serbia claimed a hard-earned three points in a Group 9 meeting with Cyprus both teams ended with ten men. Andreas Kyriakou scored a late goal for Cyprus who also saw Michael Thalassitis strike the woodwork.