THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

wsc328 previewGreece were happy to avoid the favourites in the draw but know they will have to summon the "spirit of Euro 2004" to get out of their group. But this is a very different side that will need to play their best football for years if they are to make it – although fans will expect at least one positive result along the way. Ivory Coast had the strongest first round groups for the last two World Cups, so their fans think they finally have a chance this time, though expectations are low, not least because coach Sabri Lamouchi has little experience and recent team performances have not inspired confidence.

It doesn't help that he replaced an Ivorian coach, François Zahoui, who took the team to the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations without conceding a goal. Rumours still circulate that Lamouchi will be replaced, much as Sven-Göran Eriksson was drafted in for South Africa at the last minute. Succeeding Otto Rehhagel, who led Greece to their Euro 2004 triumph, was considered an impossible task. Still, Portuguese coach Fernando Santos, who will be stepping down after Brazil, has dealt well with an ageing squad and overly high expectations, notably in taking Greece to the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.

Dimitris Salpingidis, the only Greek player to have scored in a European Championship and a World Cup, is among the best in front of the press, while most of the squad have perfected the art of conducting interviews without really saying anything. A few are regularly mocked by famous Greek impressionist Giorgos Mitsikostas for their use of cliches, notably Kostas Mitroglou and Giorgos Karagounis, who doesn't seem to be able to stand still during an interview.

Those two plus other star names such as Georgios Samaras have all done the dutiful pose in the new World Cup replica kit with arms crossed and looking very serious indeed, while Samaras has a long-running commercial where his luxuriant hair is lathered with Head and Shoulders shampoo on the pitch.

Didier Drogba and Gervinho, who promotes a muscle ointment called Jaguar, are the main faces on the billboards in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's biggest city, while the whole team advertise mobile phone company Orange. Kolo Touré is always a chatty interviewee, brother Yaya far less so. Drogba is regarded as a consummate pro in his dealings with the media though he is occasionally reluctant to speak. He recently invested in an Ivorian gold mine but in general the players keep their business interests quiet, and much of the money stays out of the country. Mrs Drogba, Diakite Lalla, sometimes lends a hand to the Mama Elephants, a group of women supporters who tend to lead the chants at games.

The costs of getting to Brazil, allied to the fact that Greece struggled fill their 32,000-capacity stadium for the qualifiers, means it's unlikely that many supporters will make the trip. Those that do travel are certain to have packed their ancient Greek warrior replica helmets. Mitroglou is famous for his goal celebration where he pretends to unload a machine gun into the crowd, so could have something up his sleeve were he to score in Brazil. But as Greece have scored just two goals so far in six World Cup games, collective shock will be the most likely reaction to finding the back of the net.

The state channel RTI will be the only local broadcaster for Ivory Coast, with expert analysis from former players such as Ben Badi and Lago Patrice – both members of the first Ivorian national team to win a major trophy, the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations. Greek TV is in chaos following last year's controversial closure of ERT, the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation. In theory, NERIT, the state-owned public broadcaster set to launch in early May as a replacement for ERT, will be showing all the games live. Anyone in Greece tuning into the radio instead will hear Sport FM's Georgios Helakis whose passionate commentary of the Euro 2004 victory has become part of Greek football folklore. Nassos Stylianou & John James

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