Colombia vs. Greece: 6 Things We Learned
Colombia vs. Greece ended up as a painful affair for Fernando Santos' side. However, there were lessons to be learnt from their 3-0 defeat.
Greece's characteristic lack of attacking penetration combined with an uncharacteristic vulnerability in defence.
One game in, and qualification is already looking perilous. Here are six things the Greeks can take away from the game.
All statistics per Squawka.com
Santos' Team Selection Was Relatively Bold
The decision to include Panagiotis Kone in his starting XI was a bold choice for Santos.
Whilst the BBC pundits and commentary team intimated Greece would only set up to spoil (indeed, Gary Lineker actually used the phrase "park the bus" in one of his pre-match questions), the truth is that Santos' selection had at least half an eye on an attempt to create chances.
Ultimately, the gamble did not pay off, but Kone was involved in many of Greece's best attacks. The player had 50 percent of his side's on target shots; but what that actually means is he had one shot on target.
Individual Errors Costly in Defence
Whilst the scoreline is probably a reasonable reflection of the disparity in quality between the two teams, it is not a good reflection of the way the game played out.
Greece had 52 percent of the possession, managed an 83 percent pass completion rate, and an impressive 61 percent tackle completion rate.
However, Greece's defending was culpable in all three of Colombia's goals.
For the first, Kostas Manolas' unfortunate mishit attempted clearance trickled in.
For the second, Georgios Samaras was still arguing with the linesman when Colombia were given a decision, leading to a lack of organisation in the Greek box. From the resultant corner, Colombia extended their lead and effectively extinguished hopes of a Greece come-back.
The third goal saw Greece switch off, as Colombia took a quick free-kick with disastrous consequences.
For a side so reliant on its defence, these mistakes were crucial.
Manolas Recovered Well
Kostas Manolas is fairly fortunate not to have been credited with an own goal, as his scuffed attempt at a clearance from Pablo Armero's shot slowly trickled into the back of the net.
It was a nightmare start to his first World Cup for the youngster.
However, he recovered well, completing four out of five of his attempted tackles successfully, and generally performing in a tidy, effective manner. It was a noteworthy contribution from a young man who could easily have gone into his shell after his disastrous opening contribution.
Wasted Chances Ended Hope
In the breakdown of key statistics, Greece matched Colombia well, with a notable difference being the "shots on target" metric.
Greece managed only two.
Nothing summed this up better than Fanis Gekas' unbelievable miss. He headed against the bar when faced with an open goal.
Given Greece's difficulty scoring in general, missing a chance like that must have made it feel like it really was not their day.
Greece Are Too Slow on the Counter Attack
One of the reasons Greece created so few chances was how pedestrian they looked on the counter attack. Around the 65 minute mark, there was a perfect example of this problem.
From being in a position where a quick counter would have seen Colombia exposed, Greece's midfielders combined a lack of personal pace with a lack of impetus in their passing, to slow the play right down and allow Colombia to set themselves as a defensive unit.
Given Mario Yepes' lack of pace at the heart of the Colombian defence, this was a fatal flaw for the Greeks, and a crucial missed opportunity.
All Hope May Not Be Lost, but It Is Close
Greece were perhaps unfortunate to draw Colombia first, as they are the seeded team in the group.
Having maintained their record of conceding within the first seven minutes of a World Cup, Greece made the uphill road to qualification into a precipitous mountain path.
They face Japan next, and it is vital they win that game—a challenge which looks significant.
Although Colombia did look dangerous in attack, probably more dangerous than Japan will, they were vulnerable at the back, and Greece did little to exploit that.
The improvement will have to be dramatic and it will have to be swift, otherwise another poor World Cup showing from Greece seems on the cards.