Coach Fernando Santos has much work to do if his Greece squad are to go beyond the group stages at Euro 2012.
There is almost no chance that Greece can repeat their exploits of 2004 when after years of failing to qualify for major tournaments, Otto Rehhagel’s team pulled off one of the biggest shocks in international soccer by winning the European Championships.
Santos’ team, although unbeaten, were the lowest scorers of all the automatic qualifiers for the tournament and still lack creativity going forward.
Since that triumph in 2004 Ethniki (National) have failed to inspire at major tournaments, scoring a combined three goals and losing five out of six matches in group stage exits at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. It will be Santos’ job to try and inject some flair into a side still reliant on several old-timers such as Kostos Katsouranis, Giorgos Karagounis and Angelos Charisteas (recalled after 16 months in the international wilderness).
Greece’s qualification gave the country a reason to smile amid much economic turmoil but it remains to be seen if they can provide a further boost in Poland and Ukraine.
- Best World Cup Result: First Round (1994)
- Best European Championship Result: Winners (2004)
- Record Scorer: Nikos Anastopoulos (29 goals in 74 games between 1977 and 1988)
- Most Capped Player: Theodoros Zagorakis (120 caps between 1994 and 2007)
- Coach: Fernando Santos
- Captain: Giorgos Karagounis
23-man Greece Euro 2012 Squad:
Goalkeepers: Costas Chalkias (PAOK), Michalis Sifakis (Aris), Alexandros Tzorvas (Palermo).
Defenders: Vassilis Torosidis (Olympiakos), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Werder Bremen), Avraam Papadopoulos (Olympiakos), Jose Holebas (Olympiakos), Stelios Malezas (PAOK), Giorgos Tzavelas (Monaco), Yiannis Maniatis (Olympiakos), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Schalke).
Midfielders: Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos), Costas Katsouranis (Panathinaikos), Giorgos Fotakis (PAOK), Costas Fortounis (Kaiserslautern), Yiannis Fetfatzidis (Olympiakos), Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos), Grigoris Makos (AEK Athens).
Forwards: Georgios Samaras (Celtic), Dimitris Salpigidis (PAOK), Costas Mitroglou (Atromitos), Nikos Lymberopoulos (AEK Athens), Fanis Gekas (Samsunspor).
The Coach: Fernando SantosSantos is well aware that Greece lack the necessary flair going forward. He said as much after a lackluster friendly draw against Belgium in February. The Portuguese tactician has coached Porto, Sporting Lisbon and Benfica, winning the league title just once with Porto in 1999. He also knows Greek soccer well having coached a number of clubs. Santos, who succeeded the long-serving Rehhagel in August 2010, was unbeaten in his first 17 games in charge.
Player to Watch: Sokratis PapastathopoulosThe central defender was highly impressive in qualifying as Greece conceded just five goals. Papastathopoulos formed a strong central defensive partnership with Avraam Papadopoulos and Greece will once again be relying on a solid backbone if they are to have any chance of getting out of the group. Papastathopoulos was cut from the Euro 2008 squad late on – the unlucky 24th man as Rehhagel trimmed his squad.
Group Matches:Friday, June 8, 2012 v Poland (18:00 CET in Warsaw)
Tuesday, June 12, 2012 v Czech Republic (18:00 CET in Wroclaw)
Saturday, June 16, 2012 v Russia (20:45 CET in Warsaw)