Cyprus Mail
Football Sport

Confident Cyprus begin 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign

Cyprus host Belgium at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia, hoping to get off to a good start in the opening game of their Russia 2018 qualifying group

CYPRUS kick-off their World Cup qualifying campaign against Belgium, who they ran very close in their last meeting exactly one year ago, at the GSP Stadium on Tuesday.

Christakis Christoforou takes charge of his first official match with the national team since last year replacing Pambos Christodoulou, who led the national team to within a victory of reaching the Euro 2016 playoffs.

While the manager has changed, there are no new faces in the squad, with the aim being to continue the good work of Christodoulou, rather than to lead an overhaul of the team.

Cyprus may be huge underdogs for both Tuesday’s game and in Group H in general, but forward Andreas Makris says they are not content with just making up the numbers.

“We want to show that we are capable of big things. We can achieve something in this tournament,” the 20-year-old told Astra radio station. “It is eleven against eleven, and we will give our all for a good result.”

Makris recently joined Walsall in the third tier of English football, fellow forward Nestoras Mitidis signed for Roda in the Netherlands, while 18-year-old Grigoris Kastanos plies his trade with Italian giants Juventus.

Makris feels that this experience will be of great benefit to the national team, saying that “by having more players playing abroad, the standard is getting higher”.

Just like Cyprus, Belgium also have a new boss at the helm, as Spaniard Roberto Martinez, formerly of Everton, is tasked with fulfilling the potential of one of the world’s most talented squads which has so far underachieved on the big stage.

France legend Thierry Henry has joined Belgium’s backroom staff as assistant manager, and the former Arsenal man believes the Red Devils need a change of mindset to start mixing it with the best.

“I believe this team can write history,” he told Sky Sports. “It is an exciting challenge, but one of the things we are going to have to work on is the side’s mentality to make sure they can become a great team”.

The two sides were in the same group for the 2016 European Championship qualifiers and, while the first meeting in Belgium ended in a heavy 5-0 defeat for Cyprus, the second match was a different story.

Exactly a year ago today, Cyprus held their own against the talent-rich Belgians, going close to an opener on a number of occasions, before eventually being outdone by an 86th minute Eden Hazard strike.

The performance however, will give the Cypriots confidence going into Tuesday’s game, knowing that they matched their opponents almost stride for stride just 12 months ago.

If Cyprus are to stand any chance of qualifying, an improvement in their home results is a must. Despite a number of respectable showings in the Euro qualifiers, they managed just one win out of their five games which ultimately cost them a place in the playoffs.

Belgium enter the qualifiers on the back of a European Championships which promised so much for the so-called ‘golden generation’, but ended in a surprise 3-1 defeat to Wales at the quarter-final stage.

Tuesday’s match will be played at the national stadium in Nicosia (9.45pm), where a healthy crowd is expected to try to push the players towards a major upset.

Related Posts

Convicted ex-head of world athletics Lamine Diack dies at 88

Reuters News Service

Verstappen and Hamilton play it cool ahead of crunch time

Reuters News Service

Ronaldo passes 800 goals with double in win over Arsenal

Reuters News Service

Tottenham into top six with smooth win over Brentford

Reuters News Service

Federer must prepare mentally for final match, says Berdych

Reuters News Service

Inter’s Eriksen starts training at youth club in Denmark

Reuters News Service