Greece – Euro 2012
What are the expectations for the team?
Former Greek central defender Traianos Dellas admitted recently that he "still cannot explain exactly what happened" eight years ago when Greece produced one of the shocks in the history of the game to become European champions. It is fair to say that not much is expected of them this time round. They have lost just once in 19 games since the 2010 World Cup but have struggled to find the net. They scored just 14 goals in their ten qualifying games, with four of those coming in matches against Malta.
Portuguese coach Fernando Santos has tried out 18 new players in two years but old-timers such as captain Kostas Katsouranis and former Inter midfielder Giorgos Karagounis, who were regulars in 2004 and are well into their thirties, still form the core of the team. Some doubt their ability to cope with the pace and intensity of another major championship. Progressing beyond the group stage will be considered a success after failure in their last two campaigns.
Is the coach popular?
Succeeding the most successful and popular coach in the history of the Greek national side, Otto Rehhagel‚ also known as King Otto‚ was never going to be an easy task. However Santos is widely experienced in the Greek club game and has done a very good job. The team have remained compact and effective. "It is tactics first and quality second, then team spirit, experience in high-profile matches and versatility," he said ahead of the friendly against Belgium in February. Greece remain a hard team to beat and the Greek federation have been sufficiently impressed that they have already extended his contract until June 2014.
Have any players appeared in TV commercials or other advertising?
A number of players feature in the TV ad for the new national team kit. They walk up to random members of the public and give them a T-shirt with the words "all proud" printed on the back. However, the appearance of Greek pop star and former Eurovision participant Sakis Rouvas at the end makes it clear that he is the star of the show.
Which players are good interviewees and who are worst?
Most players are quite forthcoming when talking to the press. Dimitris Salpingidis is eloquent and very well-spoken. The standout interviewee is probably Karagounis, who is frequently mocked by famous Greek satirist and impersonator George Mitsikostas for his use of cliches and inability to stand still.
Will there be any rehearsed goal celebrations?
Greece have had less practice than most in this department, as they go into the tournament as the lowest-scoring automatic qualifiers. If the qualifiers and previous tournaments are anything to go by, expect a lot of frenzied running towards the bench for a wild group embrace that lasts a few seconds.
Will there be many fans travelling to the finals?
The financial crisis in Greece and reduced expectations of the national team based on the previous two tournaments are likely to impact on the numbers travelling abroad. However, as opponents of Greek clubs in Europe this season can testify, they are certain to make their presence felt in the stands. As has been the case in the past, more fans could arrive for the later stages if Greece do well in the opening games. Anti-government chants have been commonplace in Greek football grounds this season regardless of team loyalties, including a chant that PAOK fans sang on away trips in the Europa League urging the burning of the Greek parliament. If Greece make it past the group stages, there might be a reappearance of the chant of "Lift the honoured cup, I cannot wait any longer". "Honoured" may be replaced with an expletive depending on the mood of‚ the supporters. Nassos Stylianou
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