Greece remarkably won the 2004 European Championships but have a limited soccer talent base, making Otto Rehhagel's selection policy all the more intriguing. The German born coach has augmented Greece's limited talent base by relying on a surprisingly large numbers of players from Greece's domestic champions. Eight Panathinaikos players have been selected for South Africa, seven of whom could start. The familiarity these players have with each other could provide the Greeks a boost at a level of football sometimes characterized by the lack of intricate play, though the cynic would point out that two of the better Pana players (Djibril Cissé and Gilberto Silva) are not Greek.
Regardless, the familiarity the Pana players share is particularly important in a Rehhagel system that can play as anything from a 3-4-3 formation to a 5-4-1. The prime value for the team is not being caught-out (while trying to counter on you). They're going to force you to work through them or hit one from deep. While you try to break them down, potentially throwing more players into attack to do so, they'll try to hit you on the counter. It's not a particularly original approach, but as with many things Greek soccer, beauty is defined by results.
At times, the play can be brutal. If the team playing to Greece is being cautious, conscious of the counter, large swaths of the match will be action-less (as was the case in the first leg of Greece's qualifying playoff with Ukraine). If not saying have a book handy. I'm just saying you might not watch to watch this one by yourself.
That's a common refrain concerning the Greek team's style, but one thing that's rarely mentioned: The Greeks can actually be an entertaining team to watch, once a team scores. If Greece gets a lead, the other team is forced to play to them. You see the Greek's good defense, and they are given more chances to counter. If Greece falls behind, they have no problem chasing the match, and again - fun ensues.
The problem: Greece is so good at what they try to do - contain the match, wait for (not create) their moment - that your patience will be tested. And, as evidenced by their poor performance in Euro 2008 and their inability to qualify for World Cup 2006, your patience may often been met with Greek disappointment.
How They Got Here
Greece finished second in UEFA's Group 2, dropping all six points to eventual group winner Switzerland, who would end up winning the automatic birth by one point. Greece's finish was good enough to qualify for the UEFA playoff, where they were paired against Ukraine. A Dimitris Salpigidis goal in Donetsk put Greece through to South Africa, 1-0 over 180 minutes.
Players to Watch
Georges Samaras will play on the left side of attack (or midfield, depending on how Rehhagel bends his team) and has the bit of creativity that the Greeks often lack. His through ball for Salpigidis in Donetsk helped up the Greeks into the World Cup.
Regardless of Rehhagal's formation shifts, at the center will be the midfield duo of Giorgios Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis. Having completed their first season together at Pana, the pair will be second to only Spain's Xavi-Iniesta pairing when it comes to familiarity with their partner.
Were it not for defenders like Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Vangelis Moras, Greece would not have the base at the back upon which to build their system. Moras, however, looks set to miss at least the Nigeria match with a lingering leg injury.
How Far They Can Go
Greece is unlikely to get past the group stage, but it would not be a titanic upset if they did. The gap between them and South Korea or Nigeria is much less than the gap between that trio and Argentina, group favorites. Greece has the virtue of being able to force you to beat them. If South Korea can't find a cutting edge and Nigeria can't find a tactic, Greece is through.
|Chalkias, Kostas||36||27||0||PAOK (Greece)|
|Sifakis, Michalis||25||2||0||Aria (Greece)|
|Tzorvas, Alexandros||27||8||0||Panathinaikos (Greece)|
|Kyrgiakos, Sotirios||30||58||4||Liverpool (England)|
|Malezas, Stelios||25||0||0 PAOK (Greece)|
|Moras, Vangelis||28||11||0||Bologna (Italy)|
|Papadopoulos, Avraam 26||14||0||Olympiacos (Greece)|
|Papastathopoulos, Sokratis||22||10||0||Genoa (Italy)|
|Seitaridis, Giourkas||29||69||1||Panathinaikos (Greece)|
|Spiropoulos, Nikos||26||19||0||Panathinaikos (Greece)|
|Torosidis, Vasilis||25||26||2||Olympiacos (Greece)|
|Vyntra, Loukas||29||29||0||Panathinaikos (Greece)|
|Alexandros, Tziolis||25||19||0||Siena (Italy)|
|Karagounis, Giorgis||33||93||6||Panathinaikos (Greece)|
|Katsouranis, Kostas||30||69||8||Panathinaikos (Greece)|
|Ninis, Sotiris||20||4||1||Panathinaikos (Greece)|
|Patsatzoglou, Christos||31||43||1||Omonia (Cyprus)|
|Prittas, Sakis||31||0||0||Aris (Greece)|
|Charisteas, Andreas||30||84||24||Nuremburg (Germany)|
|Kapetanos, Pantelis||27||3||0||Steaua Bucuresti (Romania)|
|Salpigidis, Dimitris||28||36||3||Panathinaikos (Greece)|
|Samaras, Georgios||25||34||5||Celtic (Scotland)|
Greece World Cup Team Card
SB Nation Soccer will be distributing team cards for each of the World Cup's 32 entrants. Here is Greece's:
For more World Cup coverage, visit the Dirty Tackle blog from our partners at Yahoo!