2014 World Cup Group C team previews: Greece
A second consecutive World Cup finals represents a huge success for Greece who want to go a step further than they did in South Africa in 2010 and advance past the group stage.
Greece recorded their first victory and scored their first goals at the World Cup four years ago after an embarrassing maiden World Cup appearance in 1994, when they lost all three group games and conceded 10 goals without reply.
For Greece coach Fernando Santos, who will leave his post after the World Cup, the target is clear.
“The first aim of Greece is to advance and then we will see,” said the Portuguese, who also led the Euro 2004 champions to the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.
“We are not going there on holiday. This is our third World Cup appearance and we want to make it to the next stage for the first time.”
They are in Group C with Colombia, Ivory Coast and Asian champions Japan. Both the South American and the African teams are physically stronger than the Greeks while Japan are viewed as another uncomfortable opponent.
There is no clear group favourite and Greece’s trademark rock-solid defence, which let in just four goals in 10 qualifiers, will again serve as their strongest asset.
Three of those goals were conceded in a 3-1 loss to Bosnia, meaning Greece let in just one goal in the other nine games.
Forward Dimitris Salpingidis, who scored four goals in the qualifiers, including one in the play-off against Romania, said:
“This time our aim is to reach the last 16. We’re in a finely balanced group with no major favourites. It won’t be easy, but we can do it.
“We have the quality to score at any point. To win, you have to score goals.”
But with just 12 goals in their 10 qualifiers, one more than Slovakia who were third 12 points behind, the Greeks need to raise their scoring rate.
The team did show in their qualification play-off against Romania that they can score more than one goal when it matters, easing into the tournament with a 4-2 aggregate win with striker Kostas Mitroglou on target three times in the two games.
A lot will depend on the Fulham striker, who is nursing a knee injury, and his form at the tournament.
His goals are likely to spell the difference between a spot in the next stage or a short stay in Brazil. But he, like the rest of the team, will need to improve because he has had a miserable build-up to the tournament.
Hampered by injury he made just three league appearances for Fulham and failed to score.
Five to watch:
Kyriakos Papadopoulos, centre-back (Schalke); Age 22; 16 caps. ‘Papa’, as he is affectionately known in Germany, has missed almost the entire season through injury. One of the most gifted Bundesliga central defenders, and when healthy a powerful presence in defence, he enjoys going forward for set-pieces.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos, centre-back (Borussia Dortmund); Age 25; 46 caps. Big-money move from Werder Bremen to Borussia Dortmund threw him into spotlight and so far has risen to challenge of replacing injured Neven Subotic at last season’s Champions League runners-up.
Giorgos Karagounis, midielder (Fulham); Age 37; 132 caps. Oldest member of the squad and Euro 2004 winner seldom plays a full game these days. But experience and undiminished passion can prove crucial as it did in last Euro 2012 group game against Russia, when he scored the winner.
Kostas Mitroglou, striker (Fulham); Age 26; 29 caps. ‘Mitrogoal’ carries nation’s hopes of advancing past group stage as his goalscoring ability helped Greece qualify. Move to Fulham has not gone as planned after knee injury kept him out for weeks.
Georgios Samaras, winger (Celtic); Age 29; 71 caps. Was once again in fine form in the Scottish Premier League this season, netting seven times in 19 matches and assisting on six more, has to prove his dearth of international scoring (eight goals in 71 matches) is an unlucky accident.
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Published: May 22, 2014 04:00 AM