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Greece seek to hold off Croatia and Israel

Published: Tuesday 30 August 2011, 9.49CET
Just one point separates Group F leaders Greece from challengers Croatia and Israel, with the latter side meeting both of the leading pair in a section that looks like going to the wire.
Greece seek to hold off Croatia and Israel
Israel in training ahead of their meetings with Greece and Croatia ©Getty Images
Published: Tuesday 30 August 2011, 9.49CET

Greece seek to hold off Croatia and Israel

Just one point separates Group F leaders Greece from challengers Croatia and Israel, with the latter side meeting both of the leading pair in a section that looks like going to the wire.

Just one point separates UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group F leaders Greece from challengers Croatia and Israel. While Luis Fernandez's side have three games left to their rivals' four, Greece face two away trips over the next week. Two wins for Georgia, five points off the lead, could even bring them back into contention. rounds up the team news.

2 September: Israel v Greece, Malta v Croatia, Georgia v Latvia

6 September: Croatia v Israel, Latvia v Greece, Malta v Georgia

Latest standings

Greece (14 points)
Fernando Santos, unbeaten in his 12 games at the helm, has had to make several defensive changes for the trips to Israel and Latvia he has described as "crucial". "Israel will give it everything as they are presented with their last chances to qualify. We will play to win, but we also need to be practical," he added. Left-back Nikos Spyropoulos has a knee injury and is replaced by Giorgos Tzavellas, who recently recovered from a calf problem, and Giannis Zaradoukas. Defensive midfielder Alexandros Tziolis and centre-back Vangelis Moras are left out as they are without a club while Sokratis Papastathopoulos is suspended against Israel but should return in Latvia. Forward Stefanos Athanasiadis was ruled out with a thigh injury after PAOK FC's league game with Xanthi FC.

Goalkeepers: Michalis Sifakis (Aris Thessaloniki FC), Alexandros Tzorvas (US Città di Palermo).

Defenders: Loukas Vyntra (Panathinaikos FC), Giannis Maniatis (Olympiacos FC), Vassilis Torosidis (Olympiacos FC), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (SV Werder Bremen)¹, Kyriakos Papadopoulos (FC Schalke 04), Avraam Papadopoulos (Olympiacos FC), Giannis Zaradoukas (Olympiacos Volou FC), Giorgos Tzavellas (Eintracht Frankfurt).

Midfielders: Kostas Katsouranis (Panathinaikos FC), Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos FC), Pantelis Kafes (AEK Athens FC), Giorgos Fotakis (PAOK FC), Grigoris Makos (AEK Athens FC), Thanos Petsos (1. FC Kaiserslautern), Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos FC), Giannis Fetfatzidis (Olympiacos FC), Giorgos Georgiadis (PAOK FC)**.

Forwards: Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK FC), Nikos Liberopoulos (AEK Athens FC), Giorgos Samaras (Celtic FC).

¹Israel game only
**Called up

Croatia (13 pts)
Slaven Bilić has left out forwards Ivan Rakitić and Mladen Petrić, insisting he is fortunate to have such a wealth of attacking options. "We are strongest in attack, we have seven or eight quality players but at the moment we have decided to pick those five," said Bilić. The coach has named GNK Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper Ivan Kelava in his squad after an impressive performance in the UEFA Champions League play-off second leg against Malmö FF, however, the 23-year-old is unlikely to win his first cap.

Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (FC Rostov), Danijel Subašić (HNK Hajduk Split), Ivan Kelava (NK Dinamo Zagreb).

Defenders: Vedran Ćorluka (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Josip Šimunić (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), Dejan Lovren (Olympique Lyonnais), Ivan Strinić (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Gordon Schildenfeld (Eintracht Frankfurt), Darijo Srna (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Šime Vrsaljko (GNK Dinamo Zagreb), Domagoj Vida (GNK Dinamo Zagreb).

Midfielders: Luka Modrić (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Niko Kranjčar (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Ivo Iličević (1. FC Kaiserlsautern), Milan Badelj (GNK Dinamo Zagreb), Ognjen Vukojević (FC Dynamo Kyiv), Tomislav Dujmović (FC Dinamo Moskva), Ivan Perišić (Borussia Dortmund).

Forwards: Eduardo (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Mario Mandžukić (VfL Wolfsburg), Nikola Kalinić (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Nikica Jelavić (Rangers FC), Ivan Klasnić (Bolton Wanderers FC).

Israel (13 pts)
Fernandez is set to be without forwards Ben Sahar and Elyaniv Barda after both suffered weekend injuries. Sahar hurt his ankle playing for AJ Auxerre on Saturday and KRC Genk's Barda tore a leg muscle, meaning calls for Toto Tamuz and Dor Malul. "I was delighted to hear that Bloomfield stadium was sold out for the match against Greece and we will do everything we can in order to win," said Fernandez, whose team lost 4-3 to Ivory Coast in a Geneva warm-up. "We will try and play attacking football with as many attacking players as we can. Against Ivory Coast we conceded many goals and our defence was shaky which is a cause for concern."

Goalkeepers: Dudu Aouate (RCD Mallorca), Guy Haimov (Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC).

Defenders: Yuval Shpungin (AC Omonia), Iyad Khutaba (Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC), Itzhak Cohen (Maccabi Haifa FC), Tal Ben Haim (Portsmouth FC), Omri Ben Haroush (Maccabi Netanya FC), Talb Tawatcha (Maccabi Haifa FC), Rami Gershon (KV Kortrijk), Dor Malul (K. Beerschot AC).

Midfielders: Bebras Natcho (FC Rubin Kazan), Beram Kayal (Celtic FC), Almog Cohen (1. FC Nürnberg), Lior Refaelov (Club Brugge KV), Eran Zahavi (US Città di Palermo), Tamir Cohen (Maccabi Haifa FC), Eyal Golasa (Maccabi Haifa FC), Maor Melikson (Wisła Kraków), Yossi Benayoun (Chelsea FC), Maor Bar Buzaglo (R. Standard de Liège).

Forwards: Elyaniv Barda (KRC Genk), Etey Shechter (1. FC Kaiserslautern), Tomer Hemed (RCD Mallorca), Omer Damari (Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC), Ben Sahar (AJ Auxerre), Tal Ben Haim (Maccabi Petach-Tikva FC), Toto Tamuz (Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC).

Georgia (9 pts)
FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod's Lasha Salukvadze has been left out as he continues his recovery from a groin injury. Alexander Kobakhidze, who scored twice for FC Arsenal Kyiv against FC Zorya Luhansk in the Ukrainian Premier League earlier this month, could earn his first cap since February 2008.

Goalkeepers: Nukri Revishvili (FC Anzhi Makhachkala), Giorgi Loria (FC Dinamo Tbilisi), Roin Kvaskhvadze (FC Zestafoni).

Defenders: Kakha Kaladze (Genoa CFC), Zurab Khizanishvili (Kayserispor), Ucha Lobzhanidze (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Aleksandr Amisulashvili (FC Krasnodar), Guram Kashia (Vitesse), Gia Grigalava (FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod).

Midfielders: Murtaz Daushvili (FC Zestafoni), Jaba Kankava (FC Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih), Levan Kobiashvili (Hertha BSC Berlin), David Targamadze (PFC Oleksandria), David Kvirkvelia (Panionios GSS), Jano Ananidze (FC Spartak Moskva), Alexander Guruli (FC Karpaty Lviv), Irakli Maisuradze (FC Olimpi Rustavi), Shota Grigalashvili (FC Zestafoni).

Forwards: Aleksandr Iashvili (Karlsruher SC), David Siradze (PFC Spartak Nalchik), Vladimir Dvalishvili (Maccabi Haifa FC), Otar Martsvaladze (FC Krasnodar), Alexander Kobakhidze (FC Arsenal Kyiv).

Latvia (4 pts)
MKS Cracovia Kraków's Aleksejs Višņakovs returns following an injury while Nasaf Qarshi forward Andrejs Perepļotkins is back after being omitted for the 2-0 friendly defeat by Finland on 10 August. "We have not shown our best football recently," said coach Aleksandrs Starkovs. "However, we have to forget about it at the moment. With two challenging games ahead every member of our team has to be prepared in the best possible way."

Goalkeepers: Andris Vaņins (FC Sion), Aleksandrs Koliņko (FC Baltika Kaliningrad), Germans Māliņš (Skonto FC).

Defenders: Kaspars Gorkšs (Reading FC), Deniss Ivanovs (Bakı FK), Ritus Krjauklis (unattached), Oskars Kļava (FC Anzhi Makhachkala), Vitālijs Smirnovs (Skonto FC).

Midfielders: Jurijs Žigajevs (RTS Widzew Łódź), Ivans Lukjanovs (KS Lechia Gdańsk), Aleksandrs Cauņa (PFC CSKA Moskva), Aleksandrs Fertovs (Skonto FC), Aleksejs Višņakovs (MKS Cracovia Kraków), Ritvars Rugins (FK Ventspils), Oļegs Laizāns (FK Ventspils).

Forwards: Māris Verpakovskis (Bakı FK), Artjoms Rudņevs (KKS Lech Poznań), Edgars Gauračs (FC Enisey Krasnoyarsk), Andrejs Perepļotkins (Nasaf Qarshi).

Malta (0 pts)
The main absentees in John Buttigieg's squad are Justin Haber (calf) and Shaun Bajada (ankle). Striker Daniel Bogdanovic misses out having dashed back to England on Wednesday to finalise a move to Blackpool FC, but captain Michael Mifsud is available having recovered from a hamstring injury. "I am convinced my players will put in a strong display," said Buttigieg.

Goalkeepers: Andrew Hogg (Valletta FC), Reuben Gauci (Marsaxlokk FC).

Defenders: André Agius (Birkirkara FC), Steve Borg (Valletta FC); Roderick Briffa (Valletta FC), Jonathan Caruana (Valletta FC), Clayton Failla (Sliema Wanderers FC), Carlo Mamo (Marsaxlokk FC), Joseph Zerafa (Birkirkara FC).

Midfielders: Trevor Cilia (Birkirkara FC), Paul Fenech (Birkirkara FC), Ryan Fenech (Valletta FC), John Hutchison (Chengdu Blades FC), Emmanuel Muscat (Wellington Phoenix FC), Jamie Pace (Valletta FC), Gareth Sciberras (Marsaxlokk FC).

Forwards: Andrew Cohen (Hibernians FC), Michael Mifsud (Qormi FC), André Schembri (Ferencvárosi TC), Ivan Woods (Floriana FC).

Last updated: 01/09/11 17.39CET

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