Team Profile: Greece
- Coach: Otto Rehhagel
- Goalkeepers: Alexandros Tzorvas (Panathinaikos), Michalis Sifakis (Aris), Costas Chalkias (PAOK)
- Defenders: Stelios Malezas (PAOK), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Genoa/Italy), Avraam Papadopoulos (Olympiakos), Vangelis Moras (Bologna/Italy), Sotiris Kyrgiakos (Liverpool/England), Loukas Vyntra (Panathinaikos), Giourkas Seitaridis (Panathinaikos), Vassilis Torosidis (Olympiakos), Nikos Spiropoulos (Panathinaikos)
- Midfielders: Costas Katsouranis (Panathinaikos), Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos), Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos), Christos Patsatzoglou (Omonia), Thanassis Prittas (Aris), Alexandros Tziolis (Siena/Italy)
- Forwards: Dimitris Salpingidis (Panathinaikos), Georgios Samaras (Celtic/Scotland), Angelos Charisteas (Nuremberg/Germany), Pantelis Kapetanos (Steaua Bucharest/Romania), Fanis Gekas (Eintracht Frankfurt/Germany)
Style of play: It's all about defence with coach Otto Rehhagel, who employs an ultra-conservative and defensive 4-2-3-1 formation. In this setup, two holding midfielders sit in front of the back line, acting as a defensive shield. Greece's game plan is simple: they put as many players behind the ball when not in possession in order to stifle the opposition. They take few offensive chances, relying almost exclusively on the counterattack, when they change into a 4-4-2 formation, for the bulk of their scoring chances. Georgios Karagounis is the lone creative conductor in midfield for Greece, who will also try to score from set pieces.
1st round matches:
- June 12 vs. South Korea in Port Elizabeth
- June 17 vs. Nigeria in Bloemfontein
- June 22 vs. Argentina in Polokwane
Projected starting lineup (4-3-2-1): (GK) Alexandros Tzorvas - (D) Giorgos Seitaridis, Vangelis Moras, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Sotirios Kyrgiakos - (M) Costas Katsouranis, Vassilis Torosidis, Georgios Karagounis, Dimitrios Salpingidis, Georgios Samaras - (F) Theofanis Gekas
- Defence - Much like the 2004 side that won Euro 2004, this year's team was built on the foundation of a solid defence. The Greeks conceded only 10 goals in the qualifiers, so opposing teams can expect to have a tough time scoring on them. Greece plays an intelligent, defensive game, taking few chances.
- Coaching - In Otto Rehhagel, Greece has one of the most astute and crafty coaches in international soccer. He took over the Greek national team shortly after it failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup and led them to glory at Euro 2004. Noted for challenging and getting the most out of his players, and instilling a sense of discipline.
- Point to prove: After crashing out of Euro 2008 in the first round and barely managing to qualify for South Africa, Greece's credentials are being questioned by most critics - to say nothing of the fact that neutral fans loathe them for their dour and defensive style of play. This gives the Greeks all the motivation they need to prove their critics wrong.
- Lack of midfield creativity - Greece has a lot of battling midfielders, but is dangerously short of influential playmakers. Georgios Karagounis can fill the role of creator, but after him, Greece's playmaking options in midfield options are pretty slim.
- One-dimensional - Greece's one-dimensional style of play - soaking up the opponent's pressure and waiting for them to make a mistake before hitting back on the counterattack - is terribly predictable. Greece will be in a world of trouble if opposing teams ever take a lead on them, as it will force the Greeks into abandoning their conservative approach and taking more chances, leaving them vulnerable at the back.
- History: Greece has been drawn into a difficult group with Argentina (one of the favourites), Nigeria and South Korea. The only other time Greece qualified for the World Cup was in 1994, when they bowed out in the first round after embarrassing losses to Argentina and Nigeria.
Players to watch:
- Theofanis Gekas - A classic goal-poacher, Gekas might not be pretty in his play, but he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and for scoring crucial goals.
- Georgios Karagounis - The midfielder and team captain is tenacious and stubborn and never, ever gives up a fight for the ball, even if it means he'll incur the referee's wrath.
- Costas Katsouranis - A gifted two-way midfielder who protects the defence with his steely play, and provides service for the forwards.
Key injuries/squad omissions: Striker Costas Mitroglou, top scorer for Olympiakos this season, did not make the final roster. Midfielder Christos Patsatzoglou and defender Giorgos Seitaridis did, even though both missed significant time this past season with injury problems. Forward Fanis Gekas and defender Vassilis Torosidis are battling injury problems. Midfielder Grigoris Makos and defender Giorgos Tzavelas were cut from the preliminary roster.
Prognosis: First-round exit. Getting out of the first round will be a tall order for the Greeks. With Argentina virtually assured of first place, Greece will have to battle it out with South Korea and Nigeria for second spot. Greece's stifling defensive tactics worked at Euro 2004 when they won it all, but proved their downfall at Euro 2008. It wouldn't be a total surprise to see the Greeks finish second, but they'll have trouble scoring in South Africa, and will likely finish third or, worse, in last place in Group B.
ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
- Current FIFA ranking: #12
- Qualification route: Greece finished in second place (20 points) in Group 2 behind Switzerland (21 points). Greece then defeated Ukraine in a two-game playoff, winning 1-0 on aggregate.
- Key to qualification: Defensive stability. Greece isn't pretty to watch, but they are well organized at the back and their defensive style frustrates a lot of opposing teams. What's more is they show real intelligence on the field, and don't make many defensive mistakes. Crucial result: A 1-0 win over Ukraine (Nov. 18, 2009 in Donetsk) in the second leg of its European playoff series clinched World Cup qualification.
- Qualifying record: 12 games played, 7 wins, 3 draws, 2 losses
- Goals for: 21
- Goals against: 10
- Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Theofanis Gekas (10)
Qualifying results: (home team listed first)
- Sept. 6, 2008 - Luxembourg 0, Greece 3
- Sept. 10, 2008 - Latvia 0, Greece 2
- Oct. 11, 2008 - Greece 3, Moldova 0
- Oct. 15, 2008 - Greece 1, Switzerland 2
- March 28, 2009 - Israel 1, Greece 1
- April 1, 2009 - Greece 2, Israel 1
- Sept. 5, 2009 - Switzerland 2, Greece 0
- Sept. 9, 2009 - Moldova 1, Greece 1
- Oct. 10, 2009 - Greece 5, Latvia 2
- Oct. 14, 2009 - Greece 2, Luxembourg 1
- Nov. 14, 2009 - Greece 0, Ukraine 0
- Nov. 18, 2009 - Ukraine 0, Greece 1
- Number of Previous World Cup Appearances: 1
- All-time record: 3 games played, 0 wins, 0 draws, 3 losses
- Goals for: 0
- Goals against: 10
- Biggest defeat: 4-0 vs. Argentina and Bulgaria in 1994
- Most appearances: Several players (3 matches)
- Hosted the World Cup: Never
World Cup track record
- 1930 - Did not enter
- 1994 - Did not enter
- 1938 to 1990 - Did not qualify
- 1994 - First round
- 1998 to 2006 - Did not qualify
- FIFA member since: 1927
- Team nickname: Ethniki
- All-time caps leader: Theodoros Zagorakis (120)
- All-time leading scorer: Nikos Anastopoulos (29 goals)
- European Champions: 2004
- Anthimos Kapsis: Panathinaikos legend who led the Athens side to the 1971 European Cup final, a 2-0 loss to Ajax.
- Mimis Domazos: Greek midfielder who was the backbone of the national team during the 1960s and 1970s.