Here I profile the Cypriot champions Apoel Nicosia and look into why they are doing so well in the UEFA Champions League.
A club that prides itself on modesty, history and a real attacking style of football. Apoel have surprised many so far in this years Champions League campaign as they currently summit Group G on eight points. Many thought they would struggle in a group which saw them drawn with Porto, last seasons Europa League winners, Shakhtar Donetsk, the Ukranian champions, and Zenit, a top Russian side. But they’ve done quite the opposite and started extremely well and now have a serious chance of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages.
Current Group G Standings
|Zenit St. Petersburg||4||2||1||1||7||5||+2||7|
They aren’t financially well off or cheats of any sort or anything special, really. But one thing the small side from Cyprus do possess is tremendous team spirit. A massive and significant factor that lies within the club. This was shown hugely in the second qualifying round, a successful campaign saw them through to the UEFA Champions League group stages by eliminating Skënderbeu Korçë (6–0 agg.), Slovan Bratislava (2–0 agg.) and Wisła Kraków (3–2 agg.) They came from 2-0 down to secure a win against Krakow, who recently beat Fulham 0n home soil. But this team spirit is just one factor, although big, that lies within Apoel. There are many other factors such as the manager, players, fans, stadium ect. Later on in the article I will cover these elements in detail, but for the meanwhile look at these results that the side have picked up so far in the Champions League Group G below.
- Match number 1 – Zenit St Petursburg (GSP Stadium) - win
- Match number 2 – Shakhtar Donetsk (Donbass Arena) - draw
- Match number 3 – FC Porto (Dragao) – draw
- Match number 4 – FC Porto (GSP Stadium) – win
As you can see, Apoel are unbeaten in their group so far and have picked up wins over Zenit and Porto. Their win against Zenit was their first ever Group Stage victory. This run that they are on is truly remarkable, now I will tell you about the different departments within the club, starting with the manager.
- Name: Ivan Jovanovic
- Age: 49
- Nationality: Serbian
Jovanovic joined Apoel in 2008 and is considered the most successful manager in the club’s history. The 49-year-old has also been awarded awarded the “Coach of the Season” award by Cyprus Football Association four times. He guided the team to first spot last season in the Cypriot League and is doing fantastically well in the Champions League, too. Ivan has created a solid, liberal attacking enviroment at the GSP Stadium and has formed a good mix of offensive minded and defensive minded players in the squad. He’s tactically sound and believes in a strong, no-nonsense defence coupled with a flair-filled, attacking frontline. The system seems to be working well and the players suit the style. 4-2-3-1 is the usual formation, the same formation used by teams such as Real Madrid and Inter Milan, teams that Apoel probably think they can beat with the form they are in at the moment. Nevertheless, Jovanovic is doing well with Apoel and is respected hugely by many of the Apoel population for the past glories he has won for the club.
- Name: Ailton
- Age: 27
- Nationality: Brazillian
A speedy, skillfull and technically gifted striker signed from FC Copenhagen in July 2010. The Brazillian was named Cypriot First Division Player of the Season last term and has scored four goals for Apoel in the Champions League qualifying rounds plus two goals in the group stages. Seen as one of the best there is in the Cypriot League, Ailton thrives in the attacking style of play that Niscosia play. When put infront of goal he rarely misses and has a fabulous goal scoring record. One of Apoel’s best players, if not the best, many would agree.
- Name: GSP Stadium
- Capacity: 22,859
- Built: 1998
The GSP Stadium holds up to 20,000 people and is usually full on a matchday. Apoel are known for their loud and passionate fans around Europe and they have certainly helped in Nicosia’s excellent start to the Champions League campaign. Built just 13 years ago, the pitch is kept well and suits the attacking style Jovanovic has created. The GSP Stadium is the largest in Cyprus.
So that concludes my Club Focus. Be sure to check out more in the future. But remember the name – Apoel Nicosia – the side from Cyprus who are ripping apart one of the most prestigious events in football.