Greece adjust to secure the left side: In the game against Poland Holebas was given little protection by Samaras and was regularly exposed by Blaszczykowski, so in the second group game against Czech Republic Santos shuffled his front line to try to give the left back some more protection – an effort which was instantly proven worthless as the Czechs carved open Greece’s left side at will to take an early 2-0 lead. So for this match Santos replaced the attack-minded Holebas with Tzavellas in the hope of negating Dzagoev.
A clean sheet against a side that had beaten the eventual group winners 4-1 in the opening match suggests that this change was instrumental in the new-found defensive solidarity. In truth, Russia still dominated the Greek left, and Dzagoev still got into good scoring positions – the change of left back was decorative more than decisive.
Woeful Russian finishing: Both sides managed only two shots on target, but Russia achieved this from 31 attempts at goal. 9 Russian players took at least two shots, and 3 had at least five attempts, showing that the threat on the Greek goal was coming from all over the pitch. The chalkboard below backs this up, showing that these shots were coming in from left and right, near and far; the only thing most of them had in common was that Sifakis could wave at them as they sailed past his goal into the stand behind. After a shocking display from Chalkias in previous games, you’d have thought Russia would want to ensure they tested his emergency understudy.
Greek set piece threat: Greece struggled to create anything of note in this game, as Russia completely dominated. Their 161 total passes accounted for only 31% of possession, and the 31 of those passes which took place in the attacking third only led to one successful cross. However, Greece were a constant threat from corners, connecting with four of their five – particularly from the right which is where most of their shots came from. Russia couldn’t deal with the set piece routines Greece were running at the near post, and paid the price.
Russia were widely tipped to walk this match and win group A (including by a website not a million miles away from here). In truth (and not just because it makes this website feel a little bit better about itself) Russia were dominant and could have easily scored a hatful if they hadn’t been so wasteful. However, if you can’t score against Greece then you don’t really deserve to make the quarter finals.
Greece have qualified, but due to a nervous collapse by Poland and the aforementioned gift by Russia. They haven’t really impressed at all so far in this tournament, but fortune seems to be on their side. Surely they can’t keep this up for another three matches and repeat their Euro 2004 success… can they?!
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Chalkboards provided by the brilliant Stats Zone iPhone app.