Cyprus Mail
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Nioplias puts last-gasp Cyprus defeat into perspective

By Nemanja Bjedov

Switzerland were headed for another goalless draw with Cyprus over the weekend, following a March stalemate in Nicosia, when substitute Haris Seferovic scored in the last minute of regulation for the FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifying Group E leaders.

“We did really well if you take into consideration all the problems we had with the selection for this match. What matters is that we lost the game in the 90th minute,” assessed Cyprus national team coach Nikos Nioplias.

The hosts were spared a second 0-0 draw in succession against the Mediterranean nation after Xherdan Shaqiri released Seferovic, who lifted the ball over Antonis Giorgallides for his first senior international goal.

“They had several chances to score, but as time went on we hoped we would score too, because they started feeling nervous and uncomfortable,” said Nioplias, adding “unfortunately, during these qualifications we were missing at least four to five players at each match, for various reasons”.

Switzerland, guilty of squandering several chances, ought to have been ahead long before the winning goal.

From FC Zürich strikers Josip Drmic and Mario Gavranović to Shaqiri and Valentin Stocker on the wings, nobody was able to find a way through, their path often barred by Cyprus goalkeeper Giorgallides.

“I have never managed to play two matches in a row with the same line-up, unlike our opponents who have a steady core of eight to nine players always present,” said Nioplias.

“I hope that in the next season our players get more playing time in their respective teams, combined with appropriate economic conditions. Our youngsters have so much potential and they need us to back them up, because I believe it is the time to make a new start for Cypriot football.”

Switzerland now lead Group E with 14 points, four points ahead of Albania, with four matches remaining, while Cyprus are at rock bottom after collecting four points in total.

“I have experienced matches like this one before. The fine line between victory and defeat is a characteristic of tight matches. You win if you did everything right and, if not, you have to analyse errors and accept criticism,” said Switzerland’s coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who completed a two-match FIFA ban imposed for an offensive gesture toward the referee during a previous qualifier.

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