NICOSIA – Cyprus got 2013 underway with a 3-1 defeat to Serbia in a friendly on Wednesday night with Nicos Nioplias’ side failing to show an improvement on their recent slump of form.
Metalurh Donetsk’s Constantinos Makrides had given Cyprus the lead on 19 minutes after picking up a cross from Demetris Christofi but the Serbian visitors hit back through Dusan Tadic on the half-hour. The Twente attacker grabbed his second just after halftime after taking advantage of some poor defending from Cyprus and Udinese defender Dusan Basta made sure of the win 20 minutes before the end.
Cyprus, who saw Olympiakos Nicosia forward Pieros Sotiriou make an impressive starting debut, will next take on Switzerland in Nicosia in March in a 2014 World Cup qualifier with the island currently sitting bottom of the group on just three points.
Serbia’s impressive line-up included the likes of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov.
“We played a really tough friendly against a very good side”, Cyprus boss Nioplias told reporters. “It was really a game of two halves for us. In the first half we were very, very good and we played to our potential as a national team. But in the second half, everything went wrong. We gifted them two goals and at this level you simply cannot do that.”
Despite the defeat, Nioplias was singing the praise of Sotiriou who has agreed to join APOEL in the summer.
“In the first half, all the players were excellent but I must it be said that Sotiriou was outstanding. It was his starting debut and he played as if he 50 appearances under his belt.”
Cyprus have secured just three victories since 2009 with the most noteworthy being a 4-1 victory over Bulgaria. Since then, they have recorded just two wins – a 3-2 friendly win over Moldova and a 1-0 win over Iceland in the current qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014.