By Nemanja Bjedov
CYPRUS remain bottom of FIFA World Cup Qualifying Group E with four points from eight matches after a 2-0 loss to Slovenia on Tuesday night at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia.
“We did not start the match well, but we managed to raise the level of our performance after the first thirty minutes or so. In the second half, we were much better overall,” said Cyprus national team coach Nikos Nioplias.
“We started creating goal-scoring opportunities and if we had managed to convert one of them, maybe the outcome would have been different. I want to congratulate Slovenia on their display, but again I have an impression that the final score does not reflect the proper image of the match itself,” he added.
Slovenia took the lead after only 12 minutes through experienced 34-year-old striker Milivoje Novakovic, while Fiorentina midfielder Josip Ilicic set up the final score ten minutes before the end.
This was third consecutive defeat for Cyprus in the qualifiers and the fourth straight match in which they failed to score. The Cypriots recorded their only Group E win last September against Iceland at home, when it was 1-0.
“The fact is that since 2008 Cypriot football is constantly improving and who knows where it will end up in the next few years. However, we won only one match throughout this qualifying campaign and I am really not very optimistic about the future of football in the country. This is my view,” said Nioplias.
“We have some great players playing for the national team, but not many. We all understand that Cypriot club sides, especially the ones that play in European competitions, do not use many local players. My hopes were that due to the economic problems this would change, but in reality things went from bad to worse. The only thing we can do is to use all resources to fight against a trend such as this,” the Greek coach concluded.
With two matches remaining Switzerland top Group E with 18 points, while Iceland are currently second with 13. Slovenia and Norway are in third and fourth position with 12 and 11 points respectively, while Albania are fifth with 10 points.
In early October Cyprus will play the final two matches of their qualifying campaign. On October 11 they will travel to Iceland, while four days later they host Albania.
By Nemanja Bjedov