Mitroglou in fine form and Sakai decisive

11 Oct 2017
Photos ©
Thanks to their star striker Kostas Mitroglou, who has scored three goals in two matches, Greece have qualified for the play-offs. And Hiroke Sakai make a decisive pass in his game.

Kostas Mitroglou hits the target. OM's Greek striker has scored three goals in two matches. These were two decisive matches for the Greek team, who have now qualified for the play-off stage (matches to be played on the 9 and 14 November) of the 2018 World Cup, which is being held in Russia next summer. Selected to play against Cyprus last Saturday in Nicocia (1-2), "Mitrogoal" equalised in the 24th minute with a half-volley, which followed a successful link up with Mantalos who provided a pass from the edge of the area. Kostas might have got a second goal, but, under pressure from the Cypriot defence, he missed his final shot, which came at the end of a solo run of around 50 yards.

Mitroglou was again in the team against Gibraltar in Piraeus and repeated his goal-scoring performance, this time contributing two goals. Looking sharp and lively, he scored his first with his left after receiving a pass into the centre from the very same Mantalos (60th), then scored a similar one a few minutes later from a pass by Tsoridis (63rd). Kostas came very close to getting his hat-trick, but his right-foot shot was deflected away by the cross bar.

With dreams of Russia in their minds, Greece will now play one of the big boys (Croatia, italy, Switzerland or Denmark) in the play-offs in around a month's time.

In a friendly match against New Zealand last Friday, in which Bill Tuiloma came on in the 82nd minute, Hiroki Sakai, in his familiar right-hand side role, played the entire 90 minutes and provided the final header that set up Shu Kurata for the winning goal (88th minute), demonstrating all his control and accuracy in the process. The Olympien did not play in the second friendly against Haiti at the Nissan Stadium (3-3), instead being rested along with most of the other first-choice players by the Japanese team's Bosnian trainer. Japan are due to play their next friendly against Brazil in Lille on November 10 followed by a match against Belgium in Bruges (Jan Breydel Stadium) on the 14 November.

And finally, Clinton N'Jie and Franck Zambo were selected to play in the Cameroon team that faced Algeria (2-0) in Yaoundé. OM's top striker opened the score (25th minute) following a deep pass down the centre from Aboubacar, who outpaced the Algerian defence at speed before outwitting the "Fennecs' keeper, Raïs M’Bolhi, who served his apprenticeship at Marseille. Along with his number three, Anguissa, N'Jie played the entire match, making a valuable contribution as a defensive midfielder playing down the middle. Despite this success, the Cameroonian will not be going to Russia: Nigeria is the team that has qualified from Group B.

And finally, a word about the French national team, who have qualified directly for the World Cup by beating Bulgaria (1-0) and Belarus (2-1). Dimitri Payet came on for Lacazette (76th minute) in Sofia on Saturday and for Lemar (83th minute) at the Stade de France on Tuesday evening.

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