Northern Ireland’s men’s Under-17 team were defeated 2-0 by Greece’s U17s in a Euro qualifier in Italy. Northern Ireland had their chances, especially in the first half, however the Greeks were more clinical in front of goal.
UEFA European Under-17 Championship 2023-24 Qualifying Round
Northern Ireland U17s 0 Greece U17s 2
Greece: Sulanjaku (51’), Mythou (67’)
Stadio Germano Todoli, Cervia
25 October 2023
Northern Ireland’s U17s are currently competing in a four-team mini tournament along with Italy, Greece and San Marino. It’s a UEFA European Under-17 Championship qualifying round and up for grabs are places in the elite round next spring. U17 coaches Andy Waterworth and Kris Lindsay have a 20-strong panel at their disposal for the Group 11 mini tournament, which is being hosted by Italy in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. The game in Cervia was the first match for both countries in the qualifying round.
How it happened
Northern Ireland started brightly and had the first chance of the game, defender Alfie Friars sending an effort wide.
However, the Greeks then began to press and Northern Ireland keeper Will Murdock saved a couple of efforts from Greece striker Zois Karargyris. Down the other end Cole Brannigan produced a great cross to Callum Burnside, however he put his close range header past the post.
Murdock superbly thwarted Greece forward and captain Anestis Mythou before Northern Ireland had a flurry of chances. Ceadach O’Neill was just off target with a lovely strike, Greek keeper Efstathios Beleris kept out a rasping Burnside shot and Chris Atherton steered an effort wide.
Northern Ireland continued to push forward, with captain Blaine McClure pulling the strings in midfield.
Just before the break Greece created a couple of opportunities. Vasileios Eleftheriadis failed to hit the target, while an effort from midfielder Ioannis Sarris was saved by Murdock.
Half-time: Northern Ireland U17s 0 Greece U17s 0
Six minutes after the restart Greece took the lead through defender Stelio Sulanjaku, who got on the end of a free-kick to steer the ball home from a yard out.
And on 67 minutes they went two up. Northern Ireland gave the ball away and the Greeks counter-attacked. Eventually substitute Bedri Dunga fed Mythou and the captain applied the finish.
Eleftheriadis was off target with a free-kick as the Greeks went in search of a third goal. And Mythou also dragged a shot wide of the upright.
The game then petered out as both sets of players tired following an energy-sapping tussle.
Northern Ireland’s second match in the mini tournament is against Italy on Saturday (28 October). The venue is the Valentino Mazzola ground in Santarcangelo di Romagna, with a 2pm start UK time. Italy defeated San Marino 4-0 in their first game.
The top two teams in 13 qualifying round groups this autumn will progress to the elite round along with the five third-placed teams with the best records against the top two in their section.
Full-time: Northern Ireland U17s 0 Greece U17s 2
Northern Ireland: Will Murdock, Conor Haughey, Calum Moreland, Alfie Friars, Alex Watson, Blaine McClure (captain), Chris Atherton, Callum Burnside, Braiden Graham, Ceadach O’Neill, Cole Brannigan.
Substitutes: (used) George Feeney, Jack Doherty, Troy Savage; (unused) Owen Grainger (GK), Callum Leacock, Senan Devine, Keevan Hawthorne, Dylan Stitt, Oscar Kelly.
Greece: Efstathios Beleris, Georgios Fragkos, Stelio Sulanjaku, Dimitrios Bataoulas, Georgios Kosidis, Vasileios Eleftheriadis, Nikostratos Zouridakis, Ioannis Sarris, Zois Karargyris, Anestis Mythou (captain), Christos Darviras.
Substitutes: Theofilos Kakadiaris (GK), Konstantinos Vyrsokinos, Bedri Dunga, Traianos Mokris, Alexandros Ntani, Antonios Tsitsilas, Athanasios Papanikopoulos, Konstantinos Theocharis.