NICOSIA - Cyprus defender Elias Charalambous is calling on the fans to turn up at the GSP Stadium on Tuesday night to support the team, pledging that he and his teammates will do their utmost “to reward them” for their trouble.
Nicos Nioplias’ men are currently bottom of their 2014 World Cup qualifying section following five defeats, a win and a draw and will have their work cut out to ensure they do not finish in last place.
Unlike the island’s top clubs, the national team struggles to draw big crowds and with Cyprus having failed to make a challenge in the group, pundits are expecting a near-empty stadium tonight.
An experienced international defender, Charalambous yesterday pleaded with the fans to help turn around the national team’s recent fortunes.
“We know that the fans want Cyprus playing well in order to come and support us but we are calling on them to come and we will do what we can to reward them.”
On Friday, Cyprus were once again bitterly disappointing in their 2-0 defeat to Norway but the Doxa Katokopia defender says it is time to forget the poor performance in Oslo.
“We had a bad result in Norway but that game is in the past and we now look towards the game against Slovenia. We are playing at home so the outcome of this game depends on us and so we must give everything to achieve the right result.”
But turning things around will not be an easy task for Nioplias with his side currently on a poor run of form and with several key players missing.
Both FC Sion striker Demetris Christofi and Paraskevas Christou have failed to overcome their injuries while APOEL winger Stathis Aloneftis became the latest notable absentee after he picked up a yellow card in the defeat in Norway to rule himself out of the game against Slovenia.
Omonia’s George Efrem is also out injured.
Cyprus have never defeated Slovenia in an official match.
The island has faced the Slovenians a total of seven times since 1992 with four of those games ending in defeat while two ended in draws with Cyprus winning just one of those encounters – a 1-0 friendly.
The last meeting between the two nations on Cypriot soil was in a friendly in February 2006 with Slovenia prevailing 1-0.
Earlier in the group, an unimpressive Slovenia laboured to a 2-1 victory over Cyprus in Maribor. At club level, APOEL have faced NK Maribor on two different occasions in the Champions League qualifiers. Back in 2002, the Cypriot side eliminated then favourites Maribor 5-4 on aggregate before the Slovenians reversed the tables this summer by emerging as underdogs to knock out big favourites APOEL on the away goals rule. A total of 37 Slovenians have played football for various clubs in Cyprus since 1996 with the most famous being former internationals Miran Pavlin, Marko Simeunovic, Anton Zlogar, Mladen Rudonja and Milan Osterc.