Now only a few weeks away, Poland kick-off the 14th edition of the European Championships with their Group A opener against Greece. With the Białe-Orły looking to get their campaign off to a fantastic start in Warsaw, EKSTRAKLASAreview spoke to Greek Football blogger Peter Katsiris of Football Hellas about his nations’ chances ahead of the competition.
How is confidence in Greece ahead of the tournament?
I wouldn’t say confidence is the right word. There’s a lot of excitement, and with that there is expectation to do well. We’re in arguably the weakest group of the first round, but of course in the outlook of our teams, we are all quite evenly matched. Expectation is to do well and at least earn a knock-out round berth. From there, Greeks are confident in saying anything can happen as memory doesn’t forget 2004.
Are there any injury doubts, or players who will definitely miss the competition?
Nothing major here when it comes to injuries. Nikos Spiropoulos (Panathinaikos) is not on the team because of injury ; however, Jose Holebas, Giorgos Tzavellas are rated a lot higher and have seen more playing time with Greece in recent outings even with Spiropoulos healthy. I’ll also answer the squad question here. Instead it’s surprise exclusions that are interesting. Main one is Dionisis Chiotis (APOEL) who back-stopped the Cypriot club in an impressive Champions League campaign. Picking an aging Kostas Chalkias, Michalis Sifakis and Alexandros Tzorvas (the latter are youthful, but had terrible seasons due to injury/medical problems (Sifakis with Aris) and just terrible play (Tzorvas with Palermo).
Other notable exclusions include Stefanos Athanasiadis (PAOK) who had a career year in Greece and looks a bright spot for the future. Loukas Vyntra left out, too (his time was up, though).
Is there a game in the group stage thats stands out as difficult or significant?
I would say the opener against Poland is difficult and significant because Poland are the hosts and people in Greece somewhat ignorantly want a repeat of 2004’s opener because we are playing the host nation again. It will be an important game for Greece as bad starts have triggered our early downfall in recent tournaments like EURO 2008 and WC 2010. Losses in the opening game have led to further disappointment. Game against the Czechs will be important only if we do well against Poland — we don’t want it to come down to the final game against Russia as we have lost to them in the last two EURO’s (1-2 and 0-1).
Are the key players from your country hitting form at the right time?
I would say that the players that need to be playing well are. Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos) could finally get the chance to be a player of importance and he appears to be in the right form despite recently suffering a broken nose. All Olympiacos players had a good season.
Who is the key threat that we should be looking out for?
Players to watch out for would be Theofanis Gekas (even though he is coming off injury) and perhaps Ninis too. Gekas because he always scores the big goals for club and country and also Ninis because he can finally be an integral part of the midfield. Vasilis Torosidis (RB for Olympiacos) is probably the best player in his position in the group and could likely take on some of the best defenses in the world with his versatility. He will be one of our alternate captains most likely and for good reason. He is a menace down the flank and could cause a lot of problems not just by playing provider but scoring too.
What are the expectations for the tournament?
Realistically, a spot in the knockouts is an accomplishment for Greece but it’s because we’ve been teased with greatness before that we want a lot more. I would expect Greece to be competitive in the group, but we cannot underestimate our opponents — that has caught us complacent in previous tournaments.
Likely line up and formation?
This is a tough question which also had me worried to answer. What I would want is different from what the manager is going to with most likely.
Torosidis – A. Papadopoulos – K. Papadopoulos – Holebas/Tzavellas
Katsouranis – Maniatis
Ninis – Karagounis – Samaras
Peter is a writer at the excellent Football Hellas, which can be found on Twitter HERE.