Belfast Telegraph

Greeks hoping for new firepower to end winless record against Northern Ireland

By Stuart McKinley

Greece's interim manager Kostas Tsanas has turned to PAOK striker Stefanos Athanasiadis in an attempt to end their 16-month winless record.

The 26-year-old is in form at club level having scored twice in the Greek Superleague since returning from a pre-season injury.

Athanasiadis has yet to score in 11 international appearances and won his last cap a year ago, but that hasn't put off Tsanas.

The Greeks will arrive at Windsor Park on Thursday without a victory since beating the Ivory Coast during the group stages of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

They sit rock bottom of Group F after losing twice to the Faroe Islands and their only points came in away draws against Hungary and Romania, which were both scoreless. Joining Athanasiadis in the squad is his PAOK team mate Dimitris Pelkas. The 21-year-old has been called up for the first time.

"All players dream of someday representing their country and I am happy for this opportunity. It is a great honour for me," said Pelkas.

Also in line for his international debut is 20-year-old AEK Athens defender Adam Tzanetopoulos.

He has been promoted from the under-21 ranks to replace injured Bayer Leverkusen defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos.

The Greek's defensive problems are compounded by the absence of Roma centre-half Kostas Manolas.

The 24-year-old, who is believed to be a January target for Chelsea, is suspended for Thursday night's match after picking up a third yellow card of the campaign against Romania, but he will return for the second game of the double header, which is against Hungary in Athens on Sunday.

There is no place in the squad for former Manchester City and Celtic striker Georgios Samaras, who has joined Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia after having his contract at West Bromwich Albion terminated in the summer.

GREECE Squad: Orestis Karnezis (Udinese), Stefanos Kapino (Olympiakos), Marcos Vellidis (Giannina), Loukas Vyntras (Hapoel Tel Aviv), Vasilis Torosidis, Kostas Manolas (both Roma), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Bayer Leverkusen), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund), Jose Holebas (Watford), Vangelis Moras (Verona), Kostas Stafylidis (Augsburg), Stelios Kitsiou, Alexandros Tziolis, Dimitris Pelkas (all PAOK), Andreas Samaris (Benfica), Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Genoa), Panagiotis Kone (Udinese), Petros Mantalos (AEK), Kostas Fortounis (Olympiakos), Stefanos Athanasiadis (PAOK), Kostas Mitroglou (Benfica), Nikos Karelis (Panathinaikos), Christos Aravidis (AEK).

Belfast Telegraph