Greece got a nice boost to its World Cup hopes, as it defeated Lithuania 1-0 in Friday's qualifying match.
After falling to Bosnia-Herzegovina in the most recent qualifier in March, Greece was in a tough position in Group G, which also features Slovakia, Latvia and Liechtenstein. It truly needed all three points against an inferior opponent on Friday to remain in contention.
Paul Carr of ESPN provided these odds heading into the match, which showcases the improtance for both sides:
The Greek team lived up to expectations with a victory, although it was not the best showing overall in the narrow victory.
While there were few opportunities for either team at the start, the opening goal came at the 20-minute mark. Jose Holebas provided a fantastic cross to the far post, out of reach of the goalkeeper. Lazaros Christodoulopoulos made a great run on the other side to finish with a nice header to make it 1-0 in favor of Greece.
Soccer analyst Chris Andre had some good things to say about the play:
For the rest of the first half, neither team had too many opportunities, as Greece held onto the lead heading into intermission.
In the second half, however, it appeared to be a completely different match. Lithuania was the more aggressive side and had a number of quality opportunities near the net.
Unfortunately for the Lithuanians, they were never able to break through with the equalizing goal, and the team fell 1-0.
The victory gives Greece 13 points in the league table, although it remains three points behind Bosnia-Herzegovina for first place in the group. The squad is also quite far behind the leaders in goal differential, so earning that top spot appears difficult at this point.
Still, the squad better hope to get at least second place to earn a spot in the final playoff to get into the World Cup.
For Lithuania, this loss will be incredibly damaging for the team's hope of advancing to the next stage. The club has one win in six matches and will need a lot more points to get to the top of the table.
Then again, anything can happen with four more matches for each squad in this round.
Jose Holebas, Greece: A
While Christodoulopoulos gets the glory for scoring the goal in the first half, Holebas was the reason that the score was possible. The defender displayed beautiful accuracy with his cross, and he put it in a place where only his teammate could get it.
Holebas was injured shortly before the end of the first half, and he needs to be healthy for the squad to compete in future matches.
Theofanis Gekas, Greece, B+
Although Gekas had a few opportunities to score, he was unable to get either of his shots behind the goalkeeper. He was eventually taken out in the second half in favor of Dimitris Salpingidis.
The team's go-to scorer must provide better shots on net to help the squad, or else qualifying will be tough to do.
Edgaras Cesnauskis, Lithuania: B-
It is not necessarily a good thing, but Lithuania has come to rely on Cesnauskis and his ability to score. The midfielder has two goals in this round of World Cup qualifying, but he was unable to add to that total on the day.
Although the veteran had some nice plays, his contributions were not enough to help his team earn a point.
Mindaugas Panka, Lithuania: C-
Panka is not usually known for his offensive abilities, and he continued to hurt Lithuania with his play on Friday. He committed a number of fouls and gave the Greeks more offensive opportunities than they deserved on the day.
|D||Saulius Mikoliunas (Off 73')||B|
|M||Kestutis Ivaskevicius (Off 86')||A-|
|F||Deivydas Matulevicius (Off 86')||B|
|M||Arturas Zulpa (On 73')||B-|
|F||Tadas Eliosius (On 86') ||B|
|M||Deividas Cesnauskis (On 86') ||B|
|D||Jose Holebas (Off 45')||A|
|M||Kostas Katsouranis (Off 85')||B|
|F||Theofanis Gekas (Off 65')||B+|
|D||Giorgios Tzavellas (On 45') ||B|
|F||Dimitris Salpingidis (On 65') ||C+|
|M||Alexandros Tziolis (On 85') ||B|
These teams have a long time before getting back into World Cup qualifying for Group G. On September 6, Lithuania will have a road contest against Latvia, while Greece travels to Liechtenstein.
Of course, both squads are likely to schedule a couple of friendly matches to help prepare for the remainder of the competition.
Rob Goldberg is a member of Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team. Follow him on Twitter for the latest updates.
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