Greece vs. Sweden Post Match: A Tale of Two Halves
There are some matches that stick with you. Some wins can carry you through your week or even your month. Some losses can sting for longer. This loss in particular by the Ethniki is going to leave a mark for a while. This one hurts not because we were terrible, but because of the promise in the first half. That first half of today’s game was probably the best we have seen Greece play in the last 8 years. At halftime, I saw myself believing that all we were promised with JVS could come true. The joke was on us though because John Van Schip’s usual bullshit led to our downfall.
A Tale of Two Halves
I’m not sure what JVS said to the players at halftime. Whatever it was, I hope it never comes out of his mouth again. This team did not look anything like the first half team that utterly dominated Sweden.
The two graphs above do not hold any surprises. It just shows further that this was a tale of two halves. In the first half possession was even for the first 30 minutes, with us being the sole keepers of the ball towards the end. Sweden’s total goal threat in the first half was .02xG, while we had 2 shots hit the woodwork and a multitude of offsides that could have led to more dangerous chances. They had no answers and did not know how to stop our onslaught.
For the JVS apologists, the proof is right here in the data. From the start of the second half we offered little. We did not have our first attack in open play until the 54th minute while Sweden was threatening and commanding possession. JVS would then wait until after we are down 2 goals to make substitutions. Unfortunately, although the substitutions may have impacted our possession play, they did nothing to create anything meaningful in the final third. Shortly afterwards Chatzidiakos gets a 2nd yellow and completely shuts down any hope of a comeback.
Not the Players, the Manager is to blame
The players do not bear responsibility for this loss. Vlachodimos and Mavropanos may have made mistakes but this does not fall on them. JVS got outcoached and outclassed. He started off the game near perfectly then thought he could ride it out to a victory.
When Sweden came out in the second half dominant on the ball and creating pressure towards us, the first sub at the 50th or 55th minute should have been Pavlidis. Besides his header that hit the post, he offered nothing that Douvikas could not do better. Prior to the penalty, Pavlidis completed a single pass with only one other successful action in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Officially, he was the LEAST productive player on the pitch. He was barely involved in linkup play and offered none of the downfield runs into space like Masouras. Subbing Douvikas on would have introduced fresh legs to pressure Swedish possession.
Some of you may disagree with what I said about Pavlidis. A handful of apologists have made the claim that it was not reasonable to expect a change within 10 minutes. Even if that were true (it most definitely is not), there was also the lack of action after the first goal. Once we conceded the penalty and went down by 1, there should have been an immediate change. If not the sub for Pavlidis, one of our center backs. This game was a must win and the second we went down we needed to pile on the offensive pressure. Tzolis should have been brought on at the very least to help provide offensive pressure like he did against Georgia. Instead, JVS continued to stand, soil himself, and pray for the best.
Probably the most egregious offense was the Masouras sub. After the 2nd goal, JVS decided to sub off the player whose runs created the most dangerous opportunities for us while leaving Pavlidis on the field. At this point, after going down 2-0 the substitutions were made too late. The game was over along with our Qatar dream.
Does JVS deserve to be trusted?
When JVS got hired it was for Project Qatar. Project Qatar has now failed. Now there is a huge discussion that needs to happen after this campaign. That question is, does JVS deserve our trust on continuing this project? My answer is no.
First, I could stomach the Nations League failure knowing that there was a long term goal in mind. There were plenty of things I disliked about that campaign, but I was prepared to ignore it so long as JVS learned from his mistakes. Unfortunately, he never did. He continued to be a poor game manager and continued to not learn from any of the experiments in his friendlies.
Second, I’m not convinced that the national team is improving in a meaningful manner. The JVS apologists swear up and down that his win % alone makes him the best manager since 2014. Let’s take a look at some stats for this campaign compared to previous qualification campaigns since 2014.
Looking at our offensive stats and our end product, I can’t see how anyone can tell me that what JVS is doing is an improvement over what we have seen. We still have not qualified for anything, we do not make a lot of quality opportunities and we still cannot finish the opportunities given. The worst part is our defense has suffered. Defense has been the core identity of Greece forever. Although our actual conceded goals per game is on par, our expected goals conceded is higher than any previous qualification campaign. Our defense leaks opportunities to other teams while we get bailed out by Vlahodimos and poor opponent finishing.
Lastly, JVS continues to go through these qualifications while leaving our best players out. Clearly it has had an effect and the elite experience is required. Sadly, I cannot see them as a part of the team while JVS is still in charge.
Unfortunately, our Ethniki Omada is caught between a rock and a hard place. Our finances are poor and the budget is tight. The pool of quality coaches we have access to is very small. If we are able to find a coach with a solid CV that we can afford, I will not shed a tear if JVS is cut loose. However, if our replacement is going to be a guy like Manolo Jimenez, then I’ll take my chances with the Dutchman for another campaign.