Thursday, April 25, 2024

Prediction: Greece vs Kazakhstan

Veselin Trajkovic in Free Soccer Predictions 20 Mar 2024

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Verdict: Total goals over 2.5

Best odds: 11/10

Bookmaker: Olympusbet

In one of the Euro 2024 playoff Path C semifinals on Thursday, Greece, former continental champions, will face off against Kazakhstan, a team still aiming for their first major tournament appearance.

The winner of this clash in Athens will advance to the final next week, where they will meet the winner of the other semi-final between Georgia and Luxembourg. The victor of the final will earn a spot in Euro 2024 Group F, joining Portugal, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.

Greece

Twenty years after their triumph in Europe, Greece find themselves just two wins away from ending their European Championships absence, having missed out on qualification for the last three editions of the tournament.

Their journey in Group B of Euro 2024 qualifying unfolded as expected, with France and the Netherlands claiming the top two spots, while Greece settled into third place in the five-team group, ahead of the Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar.

Under Gus Poyet’s management, Greece secured victories over the fourth and fifth-placed teams in the group and managed a commendable 2-2 draw against France in their final match, accumulating 13 points overall. This performance was only two points shy of their impressive showing in the 2022/23 Nations League campaign.

Their dominance continued in League C Group 2 of the Nations League, where they secured promotion to League B for the 2024/25 season, alongside Ireland, Finland, and England. Additionally, Greece clinched one of the 12 playoff spots for the Euros.

Ahead of the semifinal showdown, Greece’s home record presents an encouraging picture, as they have suffered defeat in just two of their last 21 home matches. Even in those losses, against Spain and the Netherlands, the margin of defeat was a narrow 1-0.

Team News

Apart from the injured Norwich City left-back Dimitris Giannoulis, who is expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks due to a hamstring injury, Greece will have all their senior players available for this month’s fixtures. Manager Gus Poyet will also benefit from a double suspension boost for Thursday’s semi-final: Petros Mantalos and Dimitrios Kourbelis, who missed the draw against France due to accumulated bookings, are both eligible for selection once again. Additionally, Liverpool’s Kostas Tsimikas, who was rested for the match against Les Bleus, is back in contention.

Tsimikas is likely to reclaim his position on the left-hand side in place of the injured Giannoulis. Leading the line will be AZ Alkmaar striker Vangelis Pavlidis, the joint-top scorer in the 2023/24 Eredivisie season with 22 goals, alongside Luuk de Jong.

Kazakhstan

Despite Greece’s strong home performances and extensive European experience, manager Gus Poyet has emphasized that his players will not underestimate Kazakhstan, who hope to play at their first-ever major tournament this year.

With Magomed Adiev in charge of the team, Kazakhstan competed fiercely in Euro 2024 qualifying Group H, winning six out of their 10 matches to gather an impressive 18 points. However, they finished fourth in the group behind Denmark, Slovenia, and fellow playoff contenders Finland.

Remarkably, Kazakhstan only failed to defeat Slovenia in their group, securing notable victories such as a 3-2 win against Euro 2020 semifinalists Denmark. Similar to Greece, Kazakhstan will also compete in League B of the 2024/25 Nations League after topping their third-tier group.

Ahead of their clash with Greece, Kazakhstan secured a comfortable 2-0 friendly victory over Turkmenistan, marking their seventh win in their last 10 matches across all competitions.

But despite this positive moment, Kazakhstan are yet to secure a victory against Greece, having lost their previous encounters between 2004 and 2006, when Greece were the reigning champions of the continent.

Team News

Adiev will need to make a slight adjustment in defence as Nuraly Alip, who plays for Zenit St. Petersburg, received his third yellow card of the qualifying campaign in Kazakhstan’s 2-1 defeat to Slovenia in November and will serve a one-game suspension.

Alip is one of only four players in the Kazakhstan squad who do not play in their homeland. The others are Zuyev (Arsenal Tula), Bakhtiyar Zaynutdinov (Besiktas), and Abat Aymbetov (Adana Demirspor).

Zaynutdinov made history by becoming Kazakhstan’s all-time leading male goalscorer with 14 goals to his name after scoring a brace in a 2-1 victory over Finland in October. Despite missing November’s fixtures due to a broken nose, he is now fully fit and ready to contribute once again.

Conclusion

Despite lacking big stars in their squad, Kazakhstan have proven themselves as a formidable opponent against many of their European counterparts in recent months. With the return of their leading scorer, Zaynutdinov, they will receive a significant boost ahead of Thursday’s match.

While Greece may not have an entirely comfortable time, particularly with the perceived vulnerability of their back line, Poyet’s team is still expected to progress to next week’s play-off final, but they’ll probably need to score more than once to get there.

Verdict: Total goals over 2.5

Best odds: 11/10

Bookmaker: Olympusbet

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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