JOURNEY TO POLAND/UKRAINE
Given the lack of attacking talent at Greece’s disposal, it’s dismissive, but not entirely dangerous to say that it would be a miracle for them to repeat their achievements of 2004 in Poland & Ukraine. While our hats remain firmly tipped at the most awesome of achievements, we are quite sure that for Greece at least, lightening will not be striking twice.
Goals are simply too hard to come by for this team at the moment. They were the lowest scoring team of all the UEFA EURO 2012 qualified countries, finding the net an impoverished 14 times in their 10 games and even recalling 32-year-old Angelos Charisteas from the international wilderness.
The good news for Greece fans is that they were resilient defensively. Under Otto Rehhagel, they were miserly in gifting opportunities and remain as unyielding now – conceding just five goals in qualifying.
Unfortunately, for the neutral fan then, it would appear that Greece will sit tight, defend as a unit with 10 men behind the ball, and look to benefit from the minimal opportunities they create. They were the kings of narrow wins in qualifying, so why commit sporting suicide at the main event?
We’re forgetting one thing in all these negative points though: they were undefeated in their group and forced Croatia into a play-off dogfight. While being no pushovers, they will hold little feat going into the finals.
HOW THEY GOT THERE
03/09/2010 – Group F – Greece 1-1 Georgia
07/09/2010 – Group F – Coratia 0-0 Greece
08/10/2010 – Group F – Greece 1-0 Latvia
12/10/2010 – Group F – Greece 2-1 Israel
26/03/2011 – Group F – Malta 0-1 Greece
04/06/2011 – Group F – Greece 3-1 Malta
02/09/2011 – Group F – Israel 0-1 Greece
06/09/2011 – Group F – Latvia 1-1 Greece
02/10/2011 – Group F – Greece 2-0 Croatia
11/10/2011 – Group F – Georgia 1-2 Greece
GROUP FIXTURES – GROUP A
Friday, 08/06 – Poland v Greece (Warsaw, 17:00)
Tuesday, 12/06 – Greece v Czech Republic (Wroclaw, 17:00)
Saturday, 16/06 – Greece v Russia (Warsaw, 19:45)
Goalkeepers: Kostas Chalkias (PAOK FC), Michalis Sifakis (Aris Thessaloniki FC), Alexandros Tzorvas (US Città di Palermo).
Defenders: Vassilis Torossidis (Olympiacos FC), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (FC Schalke 04), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (SV Werder Bremen), Avraam Papadopoulos (Olympiacos FC), José Holebas (Olympiacos FC), Giorgos Tzavellas (AS Monaco FC), Stelios Malezas (PAOK FC).
Midfielders: Kostas Katsouranis (Panathinaikos FC), Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos FC), Giannis Maniatis (Olympiacos FC), Giorgos Fotakis (PAOK FC), Grigoris Makos (AEK Athens FC), Giannis Fetfatzidis (Olympiacos FC), Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos FC), Kostas Fortounis (1. FC Kaiserslautern).
Forwards: Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK FC), Giorgos Samaras (Celtic FC), Fanis Gekas (Samsunspor), Nikos Liberopoulos (AEK Athens FC), Kostas Mitroglou (Atromitos FC).
THE CAPTAIN – GIORGOS KARAGOUNIS
Karagounis scored the opening goal in the opening game of UEFA EURO 2004 against hosts Portugal, and to the shock of the entire football world, lifted the trophy 22 days later in Lisbon. He embodies the battling spirit of the side, which sometimes gets him on the wrong side of the referees. Karagounis holds the record for the most yellow cards in the European Championship. He’s a tough player indeed.
THE KEEPER – ALEXANDROS TZORVAS
Moved to Italy and the Sicilian capital of Palermo for the start of the 2011/12 season and has received a mixed reception after some patchy performances. He remains the first choice for his country though, and has earned consistent good reviews after Greece’s fine defensive performances during the qualification period. He’ll be a much busier man at this tournament.
STAR PLAYER – SORITIS NINIS
Born in Albania to Greek parents, Sotiris Ninis is Fernando Santos‘ trump card, his diamond in the rough if you like that. In a side somewhat weighed down by seniors and dogged experience, Ninis, who plays in the hole behind the strikers, provides the spark, the enthusiasm and the guile that can lift this Greece team to better things. He possesses great vision, the ability to pick the right pass and a fearsome kick. He won the Greek Young Footballer of the Year in 2007 and 2010, and will be looking turn some heads this summer.
THE MANAGER – FERNANDO SANTOS
The task of replacing Otto Rehhagel was never going to be an easy one. Fernando Santos’ predecessor delivered the most unlikely trophy in football history to Athens in 2004 – but to his credit, Santos has made an immediate impact. He has led Greece to UEFA EURO 2012 as group winners, brushing aside Slaven Bilic’s Croatia in the process. His approach bears similarities with Rehhagel’s – physical teams that are tough to break down. Steering Greece through Group A will probably be the limit of his ambitions here.
Group Stage - It won’t be easy for the Blue-Whites to get ahead of the group stage. They will not have passionate home support of co-hosts Poland, lack the flair of Russia and the attacking threat of Czech Republic. Even though Greece will be hard to break down, their lack of creative midfielders and quality strikers will be the main reason behind their failure to dominate of the easiest looking group at the tournament. A solid defensive technique and team spirit are unlikely to be enough.