Greece Camp Focus – Confidence dented even further by Paraguay defeat

The news that Christos Patsatzoglou and Giourkas Seitaridis had been declared fit for inclusion in Greece’s final 23-man squad offered a brief respite for Otto Rehhagel’s side. Their top scorer in qualifying – Theofanis Gekas – then picked up an injury during training and was absent from the squad to face Paraguay. A day later they played their final warm up game before their daunting group schedule begins in the World Cup and the outlook did not look promising as they crumbled to a 2-0 defeat.

There were no real surprises within the final 23 selected by Rehhagel, Patsatzoglou and Seitaridis are both valued as important players and question marks have surrounded their fitness all season. Their inclusion into a greatly unfancied squad may be a gamble but with the exception of Steaua Bucharest striker Pantelis Kapetanos, the surprise inclusions in the provisional 30-man squad have failed to make the cut, including 18-year-old Kostas Manolos and Stergos Marinos. However, the exemption from the squad that has raised the most eyebrows is Kostas Mitroglou, the flamboyant Olympiacos striker. Mitroglou was considered by many to be the only player capable of providing the creative spark in the final third. Having made only one appearance for the national team so far, he could well have been the surprise element in the squad, and would have certainly been a threat to unsuspecting opposition defences, unaware of his talent, despite the question marks that surround the young striker’s temperament. The final 23 is a familiar looking squad to anyone who has followed the Greek national side over the past few years and again Rehhagel has opted for experience and continuity over the unknown quantity.

The one surprise selection in the starting XI to face Paraguay was midfielder Sotirios Ninis. The 20-year-old has been linked with moves to Manchester United and AC Milan and began only his second full international. Many Greek fans have pinned a great amount of hope on his young shoulders, hoping he can provide the unexpected in order to reverse his sides’ fortunes. On this occasion his involvement was not enough to spark his team into life as Greece found themselves 2-0 down after 25 minutes following goals from Enrique Vera and Lucas Barrios. He was at the centre of most of his side’s good play however, combining well with the forward players on more than one occasion and he may have had an assist, but Dimitrios Salpingidis’ effort was judged offside. The Greeks found themselves comprehensively outplayed and were unable to recover after a half-time interval that saw four Greek substitutions, including the replacing of Ninis with Loukas Vintra. The young Panathinaikos midfielder should have done enough to convince his Coach to give him a start when Greece plays their first match in South Africa.

The Piratiko created several half chances during the second half but never really threatened a Paraguay side that looked far more of a complete unit. They had a number of set-pieces in promising positions but even these – on which they rely so heavily – failed to lead anything remotely threatening to the South American side. Overall the performance was very disappointing, and a major cause for concern for Rehhagal will be his side’s inability to capitalize on having much of the territorial possession. When forced to take the initiative they have frequently been found wanting and the worry is that whilst more illustrious opponents will outclass them, their weaker opponents will know to simply sit back, let them have the ball then hit them on the break – a tactic that it is easy to imagine Korea Republic deploying when the two side’s meet on June 12. Greece’s build up to the tournament has been confidence draining and they have failed to win any of their three matches since beating Ukraine in the World Cup play-off last year. In two of their three games of 2010 they have failed to find the net but with the top scorer in European World Cup qualification at their disposal – in the shape of Theofanis Gekas – the problem seems to be lack of creativity. Greek hopes of even winning a game in South Africa now look optimistic to say the least and qualification out of a group containing South Korea, Nigeria and Argentina is even more far-fetched.

Greece 23-man World Cup squad


Michalis Sifakis (Aris Salonika)
Alexandros Tzorvas (Panathinaikos)
Kostas Chalkias (PAOK Salonika)


Giorgos Seitaridis (Panathinaikos)
Loukas Vintra (Panathinaikos)
Evangelos Moras (Bologna)
Socrates Papastathopoulos (Genoa)
Sotiris Kyrgiakos (Liverpool)
Avraam Papadopoulos (Olympiakos)
Vasilis Torosidis (Olympiakos)
Nikos Spiropoulos (Panathinaikos)
Stelios Malezas (PAOK Salonika)


Kostas Katsouranis (Panathinaikos)
Alexandros Tziolis (Siena)
Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos)
Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos)
Christos Patsatzoglou (Omonia)
Sakis Prittas (Aris Salonika)


Angelos Charisteas (Nuremberg)
Dimitris Salpigidis (Panathinaikos)
Pantelis Kapetanos (Steaua Bucharest)
Theofanis Gekas (Hertha Berlin)
Giorgos Samaras (Celtic)


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