Many people remember Greece for their shock triumph in the UEFA EURO 2004, where they lifted the trophy when no one expected them to. Greece might not be gifted with the big name players in world football but they continue to defy the odds under wily coach Otto Rehhagel. Despite the odds, they managed to clinch qualification for only their second FIFA World Cup finals and are in South Africa to mean business.
Greece are in Group B where they must get good results from Korea Republic, Argentina and Africa’s soccer powerhouse Nigeria to qualify from the group stages and be able to get a chance to shine at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
South Africa 2010 will be coach Rehhagel’s first FIFA World Cup finals, where he is set to be the oldest soccer strategist on show. After a glittering career in his homeland, the German boss has earned worldwide recognition for his achievements with the Greek national team since taking over in 2001.
With Greece having only reached one FIFA World Cup and one European Championship prior to his arrival, within three years of taking the post Rehhagel had guided the Greeks to EURO glory, before going on to clinch qualification for both EURO 2008 and South Africa 2010.
“The players have been rewarded for their incredible passion and competitive spirit. We said that before achieving success you need to have the Gods on your side,” says Otto Rehhagel, Greece coach.
Greece kicked off South Africa 2010 qualifying in impressive fashion, picking up victories over Luxembourg, Latvia and Moldova, scoring eight times and conceding none in the process.
The 2004 European champions subsequently suffered their first loss in Group 2 when going down 2-1 at home to Switzerland, their clearest rivals for an automatic qualifying berth. After bouncing back with four points from their double-header against Israel, drawing 1-1 away and winning 2-1 at home, the Helvetians then undid the Greeks once more – this time triumphing 2-0 on Swiss soil.
Rehhagel’s troops then allowed Switzerland to extend their advantage in the standings by only drawing 1-1 in Moldova, a result that also brought Latvia back into the hunt for second. A thumping 5-2 victory over the latter in Greece’s penultimate group match virtually clinched a play-off spot, however, which was sealed by the final day 2-1 win against Luxembourg.
The European Zone play-off draw pitted captain Georgios Karagounis and Co against Ukraine, opponents who had taken four points from the Greeks in Group 2 of qualifying for Germany 2006. This time around, after a 0-0 draw in Athens, Greece grabbed a 1-0 second-leg success in Donetsk, the decisive goal coming from Dimitrios Salpingidis.
The star players of Greece
There will be no shortage of experience for the Greeks to call on come South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup. Chief among their veteran performers are defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who played more qualifying minutes than any other squad member, and former Inter Milan and Benfica midfielder Karagounis. Nor are they slouches going forward, boasting as they do ten-goal Theofanis Gekas – the top scorer in European Zone qualifying – and the physical presence of four-goal Angelos Charisteas, scorer of the winner in the final at EURO 2004.
Records of Greece as they play FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa
• Greece will be determined to improve on their showing at USA 1994, where they sank to group-stage defeats against Argentina (4-0), Bulgaria (4-0) and Nigeria (2-0) and headed for home at the first hurdle.
• That competition on United States’ soil was the Greeks’ first and only previous appearance at the finals of a FIFA World Cup.
Greece National Football Team Squad FIFA 2010 World Cup
|Nr.||Name||Date of Birth||Position||Clubs||Height|
|1||Konstantinos CHALKIAS||30/05/1974||GK||PAOK (GRE)||198|
|2||Giourkas SEITARIDIS||04/06/1981||DF||Panathinaikos (GRE)||185|
|3||Christos PATSATZOGLOU||19/03/1979||DF||Omonia (CYP)||183|
|4||Nikos SPIROPOULOS||10/10/1983||DF||Panathinaikos (GRE)||171|
|5||Vangelis MORAS||26/08/1981||DF||Bologna (ITA)||193|
|6||Alexandros TZIOLIS||13/02/1985||MF||Siena (ITA)||190|
|7||Georgios SAMARAS||21/02/1985||FW||Celtic (SCO)||192|
|8||Avraam PAPADOPOULOS||03/12/1984||DF||Olympiacos (GRE)||186|
|9||Angelos CHARISTEAS||09/02/1980||FW||Nuremberg (GER)||191|
|10||Georgios KARAGOUNIS||06/03/1977||MF||Panathinaikos (GRE)||176|
|11||Loukas VYNTRA||05/02/1981||DF||Panathinaikos (GRE)||184|
|12||Alexandros TZORVAS||12/08/1982||GK||Panathinaikos (GRE)||190|
|13||Michail SIFAKIS||09/09/1984||GK||Aris Thessaloniki (GRE)||186|
|14||Dimitrios SALPINGIDIS||18/08/1981||FW||Panathinaikos (GRE)||171|
|15||Vasileios TOROSIDIS||10/06/1985||DF||Olympiacos (GRE)||185|
|16||Sotirios KYRGIAKOS||23/07/1979||DF||Liverpool (ENG)||192|
|17||Theofanis GEKAS||23/05/1980||FW||Hertha Berlin (GER)||179|
|18||Sotiris NINIS||03/04/1990||MF||Panathinaikos (GRE)||173|
|19||Sokratis PAPASTATHOPOULOS||09/06/1988||DF||Genoa (ITA)||186|
|20||Pantelis KAPETANOS||08/06/1983||FW||Steaua (ROU)||190|
|21||Konstantinos KATSOURANIS||21/06/1979||MF||Panathinaikos (GRE)||183|
|22||Stelios MALEZAS||11/03/1985||DF||PAOK (GRE)||192|
|23||Athanasios PRITTAS||09/01/1979||MF||Aris Thessaloniki (GRE)||185|
Coach: Otto REHHAGEL (GERMANY)