Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Canada plays Greece in its first international friendly of 2011
Canada opened its 2011 season in Greece in a Men's International Friendly match this Wednesday 9 February. The Canadian side equaled its highly-ranked opponents step for step throughout much of the match, but ultimately fell 0:1 to Greece after a Canadian mistake in the 61st minute. Giannis Fetfatzidis scored the lone goal of the match, the first of his international career.
"At times, we did good things in possession of the ball, but we still have tendencies to rush our final pass," said national coach Stephen Hart. "We have to understand how to better control overall tempo of the match."
Three Canadians made their international debut, including starting goalkeeper Milan Borjan. Substitutes David Edgar and Tosaint Ricketts also made their first appearance with the full national team.
"It felt great to play my first match and the team played a great game and moved the ball well," said goalkeeper Borjan. "It was a good feeling to wear the Maple Leafs."
The opening stages of the match were played at a cautious pace as the two nations came to terms with their opponent and the slippery A.E.L FC Arena pitch. Canada was tackling with gusto through the opening ten minutes as Canada’s midfield, led by Will Johnson, were working hard to limit the Greek players time on the ball.
The match started to open up as the half progressed and Simeon Jackson recorded Canada’s first clear chance in the 15th minute. Jackson stole the ball from a Greek defender before unleashing a low drive that deflected narrowly wide of the Greek goal. The resulting corner was whipped in with pace, but the Greek goalkeeper Michail Sifakis rose bravely to punch clear.
Canada was clearly gaining in confidence and Johnson was the next to have a strike at goal in the 17th minute. He drove forward from his deep lying midfield position. Canada’s attacking duo of Dwayne De Rosario and Josh Simpson were causing the Greek defence headaches with their willingness to dribble with the ball while Jaime Peters was overlapping well from his full back position.
The Greeks nearly stung Canada with a beautiful piece of technical play as Nikos Lyberopoulos ghosted past the Canadian defence to volley a near-perfect cross high over the Canadian bar.
In the 32nd minute Canada again nearly capitalised on another Greek mistake. Simpson intercepted a lax Greek pass and picked his way through the defence only to see his bending strike slide wide of the goal.
Canada’s debutant goalkeeper Bjoran looked comfortable at the back of Canada’s defence as he confidently controlled Canada’s penalty area and make quick decisions with his distribution.
Both sides went close to scoring in the closing minutes of the half, Greece’s Dimitris Salpingidis snatched at his first time effort when found alone in the Canadian box, but his shot went wide. At the other end Simeon Jackson hit a deep cross from the right that just eluded Simpson rushing in at the far post.
After a somewhat pedestrian first half, Greece came out flying to start the second half. A promising looking Canadian attack broke down as a quick pass bounced away from Simpson in the first minute and Greece raced down the other end of the pitch to split the Canadian defence. The Greek attacker Kostas Mitroglou rounded Borjan before centering for a teammate in front of the open Canadian goal. Defender Dejan Jakovic recovered quickly to make a terrific lunging tackle to save a certain goal and to keep the match scoreless.
Borjan was called upon to be sharp in Canadian goal as Greece again penetrated the Canadian defence only to be stopped by the young goalkeeper who charged out of his net and made himself big to make a low stop.
Greece finally made the breakthrough in the 61st minute as Canada's clearance attempt fell to Fetfatzidis at the top of the Canadian box. Fetfatzidis made no mistake dispatching the ball into the top corner of the goal.
Canada pushed hard for a late equalizer as Johnson won a free kick in a dangerous position after a great run down the right side. Simpson touched the ball centrally from the free kick for De Rosario to blast a curving shot which was headed for the top corner. Goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias made a great leaping save to tip the shot over the goal.
Canada’s best chance of the match fell to Rob Friend in the 87th minute. A Canadian corner found Friend unmarked in the Greek penalty area but his downward header bounced agonizingly wide with Chalkias rooted to his line.
Canada’s starting XI featured Milan Borjan in goal, Adam Straith, Adrian Cann, Dejan Jakovic, and Jaime Peters at defence, and Will Johnson, captain Atiba Hutchison, Josh Simpson, Simeon Jackson, Dwayne De Rosario and Olivier Occean from the midfield up through to the attack. Coach Hart then made four substitutions, starting with striker Occean replaced by Rob Friend at the half. Hart then switched Jackson for David Edgar (66th minute), Simpson for Tosaint Ricketts (78th minute) and Johnson for Pedro Pacheco (82nd minute).
As for Greece, its starting XI featured Michail Sifakis in goal, Giorgos Tzavellas, Vangelis Moras, Vasileios Torosidis and Sokratis Papastathopoulos at defence, Georgios Karagounis, Sotiris Ninis, Konstantinos Katsouranis and Giannis Fetfatzidis at midfield, and Nikos Lyberopoulos and Dimitrios Salpingidis up front. Greece also made six substitutions, switching Sifakis for Konstantinos Chalkias (46'), Torosidis for Loukas Vyntra (46'), Katsouranis for Pantelis Kafes (46'), Salpingidis for Kostas Mitroglou (46'), Lyberopoulos for Panagiotis Kone (61'), and Mitroglou for Giogros Georgiadis (69').
The Canada-Greece match was played in front of 14,800 fans.