FIFA World Cup Prospectus: Greece
By Young Kim
Football.com will countdown the remaining time leading up to the World Cup with a 32-day preview of each team that will be participating. For those of you who want to know each team inside and out, the 32-Day 2014 FIFA World Cup Prospectus is the World Cup preview.
Group C: Japan, Ivory Coast
Group E: Switzerland, France
Group F: Bosnia-Herzegovina
Group G: United States
Previous World Cups: 1994, 2010
FIFA Ranking: 12
How Did They Get Here?
After getting edged out by Bosnia-Herzegovina in UEFA Group G in the World Cup qualifiers, the Greeks put away Romania at ease with a 4-2 aggregate victory in the playoffs.
Opponents (Match Date): Colombia (6/14), Japan (6/19), Ivory Coast (6/24)
Finish in Group? Fourth
Why finish in Fourth?
There’s a good reason to believe that this team is still hung over from their UEFA Euro Cup title run…which was 10 years ago. Greece has stagnated and never recaptured that spark in the following Euro tournaments and the 2010 World Cup. Giorgios Karagounis is their most creative player, which doesn’t say much considering he’s 37-years-old, and Kostas Katsouranis and Theofanis Gekas are still on the team despite being way past their prime. Japan, Ivory Coast, and Columbia have too much pace for the Greeks to handle, ensuring an early exit from the tournament once again.
How They can escape the group:
Young center back, Kostas Manolas must somehow play up to the potential he’s billed to have and anchor that defense real well. Greece must shore up that midfield, and manage to use their size and tactical savvy to outplay the Ivorians and Japanese, finding their key striker Kostas Mitroglou at the perfect position for goal. They can grind it out with the best if they impose their slow tempo onto the other team.
Grading each position:
Orestis Karnezis of Granada will be manning the keeper position for Ethniki. While he is considered the best keeper in Greece and did a great job with Panathinaikos in the 2012/2013 season, things went downhill after moving to Spain. Since joining Granada, Karnezis has only appeared in eight matches total. The lack of first-team action for club has likely softened his focus on the game despite his above-average reaction and length.
Greece’s defense can hold up with the top teams in the World Cup, boasting players who hail from clubs lauded for their defense. Jose Holebas of Olympiacos and Vasilis Torosidis of Roma will be starting at left-back and right-back, respectively. Holebas has been a steady presence for Greece at the left and is disciplined to know when to stay back and help on the attack. Torosidis, on the other hand, is one of the most versatile right-backs in Serie A and can help on both sides of the pitch. Moreover, he is capable of rotating with the defensive midfielder and holding his ground in that position in case they want to venture out.
Konstantinos Manolas of Olympiacos and Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Borussia Dortmund will be anchoring the middle of the backline. Manolas as mentioned before has the potential to become a highly rated center back and has been primed for a move to a better European club. Sokratis, on the other hand, has been a fan favorite at Dortmund and has proven to be a valuable piece to the club’s title run. If there’s anything Greece should not worry about, it’s their defense.
Outside of Giorgos Karagounis, can you name another midfielder on the Greece national team? Kostas Katsouranis? My, my, you certainly know your 2004 Euros, but you know anyone else? Me neither and that’s worrisome. Karagounis and Panagiotis Tachtsidis will likely play the deep-lying central midfield position while Giannis Fetfatzidis of Genoa plays the attacking midfield role. Bologna duo Panagiotis Kone and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos will play left and right midfield, respectively, and attack the flanks on the counter-attacks. While this group of midfielders is surely talented, they aren’t great and cohesiveness has been their biggest issue as well as imposing their tempo.
Talent doesn’t build a great midfield corps, chemistry does, and if this Greek team wants to be dangerous, they have to build solid teamwork and near-telepathic communication. From the looks of these friendlies, it hasn’t looked too convincing.
Kostas Mitroglou has been phenomenal in Greece’s Superleague for Olympiacos this past season, scoring 19 goals in 39 appearances with the club. The man dubbed as “Mitrogoal” has finally showed up on the score sheet for Greece consistently in recent friendlies and hopes to carry that momentum into the World Cup.
If Greece opts for a 4-4-2 at certain points in the game, he might be paired up with Giorgios Samaras, a man who was thought to carry the scoring burden for Greece in 2010 but failed to live up to the task. Samaras could compliment Mitroglou at the wing or play up top with him, but nevertheless he’s still a decent insurance to have.
Mitroglou still needs to prove that he can break past superior defenses, but given the group that he’s in, that shouldn’t be too worrisome for now. Just pray he doesn’t get injured.
Ever since he was appointed manager of Greece, Fernando Santos had a very important task at hand—get Greece out of the post-2004 funk. While he has helped Greece to a 24-13-5 record, he hasn’t shown the nation that this team can perform in the big tournaments. Still, he has patiently shrugged off those expectations and allowed the national team to grow at his pace, which has been fine. The question is, did he fully prepare them for the World Cup yet?
How Can They Win The World Cup?
Just like in Euro 2004, defend and counter, defend and counter.
What’s There To Like About Greece?
For most of you who are familiar with the Christian faith, majority of Apostle Paul’s journey centers in or near Greece. If it weren’t for his church plants and sermons across this country, chances are the Christian faith would not have branched out from this formerly relevant epicenter of the world.
There are a lot of sites to see in Greece that make history buffs drool. In Athens, you can visit the world famous Acropolis, which features the architectural masterpiece known as the Parthenon and Mars Hill and where teachers and the Apostle Paul shared their religious and philosophical ideas.
The beautiful port city of Thessaloniki is a great tourist hub as well and is known to be the fifth best party city in the world.
Although simple, Greece’s all-blue home shirt and all-white away shirt are simply pleasing to the eyes. The white sleeve on the blue shirt and the blue sleeve on the white shirt make the shirt look like the sleeves have been rolled up. Still a great kit, nonetheless.