Cyprus in Nations League relegation battle

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After Cyprus suffered a 5-1 humiliating defeat by Kosovo in the UEFA Nations League, they now face Gibraltar in a relegation playout to avoid dropping into the tournament’s bottom rung.

The match in Pristina, in League C Group 2, ended with the Cypriot team finishing in the last place, behind Northern Ireland, despite having gathered the same points.

Greece topped the group with 15 points, with Kosovo in second.

Cyprus must play Gibraltar in a two-leg playout in March 2024.

Gibraltar finished last with just one point in Group 4, with Georgia, who finished first, Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

Cyprus coach Timour Ketsbaia, after his second match at the helm of the national team, said he was disappointed with the result and performance.

“We did not stand up to the occasion.

“The team was not joined up and was a fair result, although the final score is misleading.”

Ketsbaia said he would try to correct things and look at other players, adding that the team has two friendly matches in November before the playouts.

“We will try to be ready for those games.”

Ketsbaia attributed the team’s flagging fortunes to Cypriot players not having the experience in higher-level European football.

He urges Cypriot teams playing in European tournaments to use more Cypriot players in their starting line-ups.

The Georgian is not the first national coach to be tasked with turning promising talent into winners rather than perennial losers.

Teams finishing last in the C category’s four groups will be paired, facing each other home and away. The losers of the two playouts will be relegated to League 4.

Cyprus’ hopes of avoiding the playouts were rekindled last week after beating group leaders Greece 1-0 in a gritty performance at Larnaca’s AEK Arena.