New Cyprus boss Pambos Christodoulou has brought in fresh faces to the squad as he prepares to make his national team debut in the dugout next week in the friendly against Northern Ireland.
Some of the new players called up to the first training session on Monday include Anorthosis Famagusta’s talented teenager Andreas Makris – with the attacking midfielder reportedly linked with a summer move to Everton – as well as Apollon youngster Charalambos Kyriakou, Cyprus under-21 keeper Giorgos Loizou - who is currently at second division side Halkanoras - and Enosis Neon Paralimniou’s 19-year-old midfielder Georgios Aresti.
Ermis forward Andreas Papathanasiou, who has four international caps, has also been re-called to the national side having last featured for Cyprus in a 0-0 friendly draw against Iceland back in March 2010.
Loizou admitted he was stunned to get the calling from Christodoulou and only found out about it after a friend of his had ready about it on the internet.
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a call-up”, said Loizou. “The first target of any footballer is to represent his country. I always thought playing for Cyprus was a long-shot because I am playing in the second division. So this is a dream come true.
“A friend of mine called me and told me. I went on the CFA’s website and saw my name! I didn’t really how to react!”.
Others, however, were not so fortunate.
Some of those not called up include Apollon right back Marios Stylianou and his teammate and left back Giorgos Vasiliou with the first deemed necessary for the under-21s and Vasiliou still having not recovered from a recent knee operation.
Other surprising omissions include centre back Paraskevas Christou and AEK Larnaca left winger Koullis Pavlou. Christou has had an impressive season so far in Romania with CS Pandurii where he has scored two times in 16 appearances for his side while Pavlou has been one of the star players for AEK this season.
Young striker Pieros Sotiriou, who had been a regular starter towards the end of Nioplias’ reign without ever having made an impact either for Cyprus or APOEL whom he joined last summer, has also been left out.
Veteran defensive-midfielder Sinisa Dobrasinovic, who has impressed this season with Nea Salamina despite being 37, has not received a calling.
Cyprus host Northern Ireland at the GSP Stadium at 8pm on Wednesday.
The two countries have met three times before with Cyprus having recorded a famous 1974 World Cup qualifying victory against a Northern Ireland side featuring Pat Rice and Pat Jennings in February 1973 at the old GSP Stadium.
The only goal of the match was scored by Georgios Antoniou two minutes from time. Two weeks earlier, the Northern Irish had won 3-0 in Belfast.
The last meeting between the two sides was a 0-0 draw friendly in Belfast back in 2002.