Sunday, September 20, 2020

Dethroned champions look to leave Euro 2008 on a high

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 18 Jun 2008


Reigning European champions Greece will be aiming to bow out of Euro 2008 on Wednesday by salvaging some pride against Group D winners Spain.

Greece's dreams of repeating their improbable run to the title in Portugal four years ago were quickly blown away this time around as Otto Rehhagel's defensive tactics failed to produce the same results.

The Greeks lost 2-0 to Sweden before a 1-0 reverse against Russia eliminated them from the competition.

Their form has been poor in those two games but their chances of snatching a consolation victory against the Spaniards are actually quite high.

Just as Switzerland took advantage of a weakened and already qualified Portugal on Sunday to earn their first win of the tournament, Greece will be hoping to do likewise against the impressive Spaniards.

Spanish central defender Raul Albiol said that whoever lined up against the Greeks, it would not diminish the intensity of the match as he and the other players were keen to show coach Luis Aragones they could do as good a job as his preferred first choice team.

“If I play against Greece, even if we go out there with a different line-up from the usual one, we will still be right up for it. We want to finish with nine points in the group. You must never relax,” said Albiol, who could well play an influential role in the tournament as veteran Carles Puyol is struggling with a sole injury.

Aragones, who has been linked with coaching Fenerbahce after he steps down following the tournament, could even change his entire starting XI – mind you he will still be able to call on the likes of Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas and Liverpool's Xabi Alonso to run their midfield.

It will be no easy task for Greece, although four years ago they held Spain to a draw in the group stages before finishing above them to squeeze into the knock-out rounds.

Then followed their improbable run to the final and a stunning victory over Portugal.

This time, though, there will be no fairytale and to make matters worse they will come up against a Spain team with nothing to lose – and a Spain without pressure is always a dangerous proposition.

The team that usually cracks just when they've suggested they could end their 44-year titleless drought will have nothing holding them back on Wednesday.

For Greece – who will be without striker Theofanis Gekas after he fractured a cheekbone in the Russia match – the aim is simply to end on a high after the disappointment of two defeats so far, but Rehhagel has remained positive and realistic.

“We all came here obviously to get the best possible result from the tournament,” he said.

“We knew it would be difficult. But we did compete here.

“And we will not be the only ones with a big reputation to exit at the first stage.

“Neither France nor Italy might make the quarter-finals. A miracle happened in 2004 and a miracle only comes around every 30 years. That is why we call them miracles.”

Rehhagel at least will go into the match on a relative high after the head of the Greek Football Federation (EPO) gave him his full backing and said he would be staying on till the 2010 World Cup.

“We will continue to work together till 2010,” said EPO president Vassilis Gagatsis.

“It is very easy to change coach, but the strength of this team has always been the mutual trust between the players and the coach.

“In our country it is a habit of ours to forget easily what has gone before, but Rehhagel (who has been in charge since 2001) was the architect of the greatest success in Greek sporting history.”


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