Euro 2016 Qualifier: Nothern Ireland vs Greece Preview

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.

Northern Ireland vs Greece | Thursday 08 October | Windsor Park | 20:45

Could there have been a greater contrast in qualification fortunes for these two sides? Greece, seeded first in the group, have endured a horrendous campaign that has yet to yield a single victory thus far. Northern Ireland, funnily enough under Michael O’Neill, stand on the brink of their first qualification in thirty years.

Greece may have the historical edge, with four wins out of six encounters, but this is a demoralised group of Greek players that will find it hard to pick themselves up for a game that really means nothing for the side.

To Win (90 Mins)
Northern Ireland  15/10
Draw  17/10                                   Greece  23/10

Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland have enjoyed a remarkably consistent campaign, with their solitary loss coming in a 2-0 defeat in Romania. They have scored 12 goals whilst only conceding 6, an indication of the efficiency that they have shown in overcoming their limitations. Jonny Evans is a major doubt for the match due to a hamstring strain he experienced in West Brom’s 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace. Gareth McAuley, however, has been passed fit and will provide stable cover for the former Manchester United centre-half. Aaron Hughes and Chris Brunt are also available for selection despite not training with the rest of the squad.

Chris Baird, Conor McLaughlin and Kyle Lafferty will all unfortunately miss the game through suspension. Jamie Ward will provide the focal point in attack; he was one of the shining lights in Northern Ireland’s shock 2-0 victory in Greece. O’Neill’s side have quite a few injuries in the midfield department, which would be a problem if they were facing a more competitive side. As it stands, O’Neill’s side will be quite happy facing the insipid former champions in what could be the decisive match in their qualifying campaign.

The 'Galanolefki' have, along with the Dutch, been the major disappointment of this year’s qualifiers. The former champions have only scored twice in eight matches, and are yet to win a single game.

Claudio Ranieri, who replaced Fernando Santos following the World Cup, lost four of his first five matches. This included a humiliating 1-0 defeat to the Faroe Islands, which only exacerbated their embarrassing lack of potency in front of goal. Sergio Markarian came in to rectify the situation but soon resigned following more sombre results.

Caretaker coach, Kostas Tsanas has the unenviable role of guiding this ageing group of players through to their ultimate demise. Greece are without defender Kostas Manolas due to suspension, while Kyriakos Papadopoulos is also out due to injury. Vangelis Moras is likely to replace Papadopoulos and partner Sokratis in defence. Kostas Mitroglou is expected to lead the line in attack, which is a term I use extremely loosely giving the lack of penetration that this Greek team has shown since the World Cup.

Verdict: Northern Ireland 15/10
There is no way I can see this demoralised Greek side upsetting what is bound to be one of the biggest parties that Northern Ireland has ever seen.

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