FOX Soccer Exclusive
32 Teams in 32 Days: Greece
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The Greeks love football, but they really aren't very good at it. What else can one take away from their history? Despite being one of the truly soccer-mad nations in Europe, the arguable seat of Western culture, the Olympic movement, and, um, massive debt, the Greeks have not managed to translate a deep, true love for sport into any measurably success -- with one notable exception: the 2004 European Championship.
GREECEGreece Team Page
World Cup schedule
June 12: vs. S. Korea (Port Elizabeth)
June 17: vs. Nigeria (Bloemfontein)
June 22: vs. Argentina (Polokwane)
Georgios Samaras, Forward
Giorgos Karagounis, Midfielder
Best WC result: 1994 First Round
FIFA World Rank: 12
That shouldn't obscure the fact that Greek football enjoys a long legacy. The clubs are well-remembered, and their national team is well-supported, with fans turning out across the globe to see them on the road. Nine newspapers cover the sport in Greece, and more money is allegedly wagered on football in Greece than anywhere else in Europe (some have suggested that's because matches are easy to fix).
And yet it only takes one trip to a Greek stadium to figure out what's wrong: most of their facilities are a wreck. No wonder people would rather play in Belgium, Norway and Scotland than in Greece, and thus, no wonder Greek football isn't even close to top-tier.
So, here's what you have: A country on the precipice of bankruptcy. A beloved national team whose supporters are desperate for anything positive, but is comprised largely of underpaid, underskilled players under a rigorous, defensive system.
It's not pretty.
PAST WORLD CUP SUCCESS: None. Believe it or not, Greece has only played in one prior World Cup. That was back in 1994, here in the States. They lost three straight, without scoring a single goal, and gave up ten.
REGIONAL SUCCESS: These guys won the 2004 Euro title, in one of the great upsets of all time. That’s the shining moment. And it really was great. But that’s it.
LEAGUE OVERVIEW: The sixteen-team Super League kinda stinks. That’s why their teams don't do much in Europe. It's dominated by AEK Athens, Panathinaikos and Olympiakos. Poverty is a big factor in this.
MANAGER: Otto Rehhagel, who should have been given honorary Greek citizenship for leading this team to one of the greatest upsets ever in 2004.
FIFA WORLD CUP
- Memorial set up for Paul the Octopus
- Bin Hammam rubbishes winter idea
- Corruption duo set to appeal FIFA ban
- Ex-Nigeria star takes own life in Texas
- Sepp Blatter endorses winter World Cup
- FIFA looks at golden goal rule again
- AFC chief backs call for winter 2022 WC
- U.S. hoping for World Cup bid spark
PHOTOS AND VIDEO
FIFA RANKINGS: 12th. Which is wildly inflated. Best was 8th (2008) worst was 66th (1998).
FIRST ROUND OPPONENTS: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea
HEAD TO HEAD AGAINST ARGENTINA: Played 'em once. Lost. Badly. It was a 4-0 whipping at Foxboro at the 1994 World Cup.
HEAD TO HEAD AGAINST NIGERIA: Played ‘em twice. Lost once. Badly (see where this is going?). It was an easy 2-0 win at Foxboro for the Africans in 1994. They did win a 1999 friendly in Greece, however, 2-0.
HEAD TO HEAD AGAINST SOUTH KOREA: 0-1-1; they’ve lost and drawn to the Koreans in two friendly meetings, most recently losing 1-0 in London in 2007. In Ridayh in 2006, they drew 1-1.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED: They were in a lousy group, and still managed to finish second. But, they did get a big win in the playoffs, ousting Ukraine in a shock 0-1 away win.
TO WATCH: The Greeks are not exactly a fun team to watch unless you’re Greek. They plod, they foul, they’re old, and they essentially field a 6-3-1 formation that usually ends up as a 9-0-1. Rehhagel will have them organized, but I’m not sure you want to be setting your alarm clocks for this bunch.
ROSTERGoalkeepers: Michalis Sifakis (Aris), Alexandros Tzorvas (Panathinaikos), Costas Chalkias (PAOK Thessaloniki)
Defenders: Sotiris Kyrgiakos (Liverpool), Vangelis Moras (Bologna), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Genoa), Giourkas Seitaridis (Panathinaikos), Loukas Vintra (Panathinaikos), Nikos Spiropoulos (Panathinaikos), Stergos Marinos (Panathinaikos), Avraam Papadopoulos (Olympiakos), Giorgos Galitsios (Olympiakos), Vassilis Torosidis (Olympiakos), Costas Manolas (AEK Athens), Stelios Malezas (PAOK), Giorgos Tzavelas (Panionios)
Midfielders: Alexandros Tziolis (Siena), Christos Patsatzoglou (Omonia), Costas Katsouranis (Panathinaikos), Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos), Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos), Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (Panathinaikos), Grigoris Makos (AEK Athens), Thanassis Prittas (Aris)
Strikers: Georgios Samaras (Celtic), Angelos Charisteas (FC Nuremberg), Pantelis Kapetanos (Steaua Bucharest), Fanis Gekas (Hertha Berlin), Dimitris Salpingidis (Panathinaikos), Costas Mitroglou (Olympiakos)
TOMORROW'S TEAM: Japan