ATHENS (AFP) - Greece and Ukraine were deadlocked at 0-0 after Saturday's first leg of their World Cup play-off at the Olympic Stadium watched by 50,000 spectators.
Wednesday's second leg in Ukraine will decide which team advances to the finals in South Africa next year.
Greece coach Otto Rehhagel, who led the country to the 2004 European title, tried to take positives from the lacklustre match.
"When you can't win, the best result is not to let them score and this is what we did. The result also gives us chances in the second leg," he said.
"Perhaps we had our mind too much on not letting them score and so we failed to create opportunities.
"In Ukraine our tactics will be to not allow them to score and hopefully we will have chances."
Ukraine coach Alexei Mikhailichenko refused to accept that his team were favourites reach a second successive World Cup finals.
"The chances to qualify are equal for both teams. I don't know if we need to change our tactics. We will view the video of the match and then decide what needs to be done."
Each team had a half-chance in the second half.
Greek striker Giorgos Samaras let fly in the 47th minute but his drive was saved by Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pvatov.
Then in the 67th minute a blistering shot by Taras Mikhalik nearly put the visitors ahead, but Greek keeper Alexandros Tzorvas punched the ball away.
Rehhagel made a controversial change in his lineup in the 65th minute when he took off striker Fanis Gekas, leading scorer in the qualifiers with nine goals, and introduced the much taller Angelos Charisteas.
Six minutes later he took off Dimitris Salpingidis and brought on the leading scorer for the Greek Under-21 squad Kostas Mitroglou in an effort to spark the attack.
Both changes failed to push the Greeks to a breakthrough and Ukraine, who were quarter-finalists at the 2006 World Cup, were able to record their fifth straight shutout.
The first half was uneventful with neither team wanting to give up space.
Just before French referee Laurent Duhamel blew to end the first period, Greece came close to scoring when a long range free-kick by veteran midfielder Giorgos Karagounis found Gekas, but his shot was stopped by Pvatov.
The best opportunity in the first half for the visitors came in the 35th minute when Oleg Gusev's shot from up close was blocked by Tzorvas.
|Coach: O. Rehhagel|
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