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Gekas gives Greece a chance

Greece 5-2 Latvia
Four Fanis Gekas goals helped Otto Rehhagel's side preserve their chance of automatic qualification and all but ended Latvia's bid.

Fanis Gekas celebrates scoring one of his four goals against Latvia
Fanis Gekas celebrates scoring one of his four goals against Latvia ©Getty Images

Four goals from Fanis Gekas gave Greece an invaluable victory over FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 2 rivals Latvia and kept their hopes of topping the section alive.

Wednesday target
These teams were level at kick-off in second place, both needing victory to stay in touch with leaders Switzerland following their 3-0 win in Luxembourg earlier on Wednesday. Thanks to Bayer 04 Leverkusen striker Gekas, Greece will secure at least a play-off by beating Luxembourg on Wednesday and will qualify automatically if Switzerland lose to Israel.

Latvia on top
Gekas headed Greece into the lead from a Giorgos Karagounis cross after just four minutes, but Latvia were back on terms soon afterwards as Maris Verpakovskis converted with a stylish overhead kick. Karagounis hit the crossbar two minutes later and his side were to go into the break a goal down, with Verpakovskis' right-footed shot from Ģirts Karslons' cross finding the net five minutes from half-time.

Fourth strike
Greece equalised two minutes into the second half, Gekas converting a penalty after Oskars Kļava brought down Georgios Samaras. The forward completed his hat-trick with a powerful 57th-minute header, Vassilis Torosidis supplying the assist. A Samaras scissor-kick made it 4-2 on 72 minutes before Gekas pounced at the end for his fourth of the night after Latvia failed to clear. He is now level on nine goals with England's Wayne Rooney in the race to be the highest scorer in European qualifying. For Latvia to reach the play-offs, they must defeat Moldova and hope Greece lose to Luxembourg by enough to overhaul their goal difference, and even then rely on Switzerland not beating beaten by Israel.