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Okkas upbeat despite defeat to Slovakia

Cyprus Under-17 boss Yiannos Okkas is staying upbeat after his side lost their opening Elite Round game 2-1 against Slovakia in Paphos on Wednesday.

Cyprus were made to pay for a bad start to their opening group game in Kouklia after Aurel Davidik and Denis Potoma had put the Slovakian visitors ahead inside the opening 35 minutes but Cyprus came out firing after the break and managed to reduce the deficit through Demetris Toumazou.

Cyprus will now need to win their remaining two games against the Republic of Ireland and the Faroe Islands to be assured of sealing one of the two qualifying places and former striker Okkas is confident his players can live up to the task.

In the other group game in Paphos, Ireland beat the Faroe Islands 4-0.

“Nothing is over,” he said. “The work begins now to ensure we get the two wins required. I am proud of my players given how they responded early on in the previous game. We had been waiting for these games for months but unfortunately, anxiety got the better of us when Slovakia scored early on.”

Okkas – who is Cyprus’ most capped player (106) and who enjoyed trophy success both in his homeland and in Greece with Olympiacos, AEK Athens and PAOK – is seeking to lead his side to the major finals which will take place this summer in Croatia.

Although Cyprus played in the 1998 UEFA European U18 Championship and the 1992 U16 EURO as hosts, the last time they actually qualified was for the 1990 U16s, beating Greece home and away to reach East Germany.

In the last few years, the CFA has overhauled coaching and training regimes within the national youth teams.

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