Greece head to their second World Cup with a point to prove. They may have been surprise winners at Euro 2004, but their only previous appearance on the global stage was humiliating. At the 1994 World Cup they conceded 10 unanswered goals, losing to Argentina, Bulgaria and Nigeria. With the Argentines and Nigerians also drawn in Group B this summer, the Greeks will be determined to show they are no longer the minnows.
Whatever happens in South Africa, it is hard to imagine Otto Rehhagel's side capitulating as they did at USA '94. The veteran coach will stick to the defensive tactics that have served him so well since taking over in 2001. The Greeks will sit deep, defend in numbers and hope to snatch a goal on the break or from set pieces. It may not be the beautiful game, but it is usually effective. As Rehhagel says, "we will play exciting football when we have Messi, Kaka, Iniesta and Xavi."
Aim: Second place in Group B looks a realistic target, providing they beat South Korea in their opener. That could mean a reunion with Euro 2004 victims France in the last 16.
THREE KEY PLAYERS
SOTIRIS NINIS There are high hopes for the Panathinaikos starlet, an attacking midfielder rated as one of Europe's most exciting prospects. However, Rehhagel has so far proved reluctant to place too much trust in the youngster, who is likely to begin on the bench.
THEOFANIS GEKAS Top European scorer in qualification with 10 goals, although that included six in two games against Latvia. His disappointing recent record in the Bundesliga suggests goalscoring will be tougher in South Africa.
SOKRATIS PAPASTATHOPOULOS While Greece may lack the star quality of many other sides, they can at least boast one of the 'biggest' names at the World Cup.
OTTO REHHAGEL, who turns 72 in August, is the oldest coach at the World Cup, and the second longest serving behind Denmark's Morten Olsen. 'King Otto', who has over 35 years of coaching experience, will lead the Greeks at a third major tournament, although it will be his first taste of a World Cup.
ADOPT THEM BECAUSE...
Greece may not be the most attractive side to watch this summer, but they will at least keep their kit on. Athletes in Ancient Greece were expected to perform nude, and the word gymnasium originally meant "a place to be naked".
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Greece's World Cup qualifying highlights
W 3-0 Luxembourg (A) W 2-0 Latvia (A) W 3-0 Moldova (H) L 2-1 Switzerland (H) D 1-1 Israel (A) W 2-1 Israel (H) L 2-0 Switzerland (A) D 1-1 Moldova (A) W 5-2 Latvia (H) W 2-1 Luxembourg (H) Finished second behind Switzerland
Play-off D 0-0 Ukraine (H) W 1-0 Ukraine (A)
WORLD CUP BEST
Greece's only other appearance came in 1994. In three games against Argentina, Nigeria and Bulgaria, they let in 10 goals and failed to score.
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