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Greece dreams of repeating miracle in Euro 2012


08:56, June 01, 2012

BEIJING, May 31 (Xinhua) -- Greece, the unexpected champions of the Euro 2004, dream of repeating the miracle in the upcoming Euro 2012, but the lack of attacking power makes that less possible.

Greece finished first in Group F of the Euro 2012 qualifications, collecting the fewest goals (14) in 10 matches of any group winner. They tied Denmark for the worst goal difference of nine.

However, Greece, 14th on FIFA rankings, have lost just one of 18 matches since the 2010 World Cup. Their defense is quite solid.

Known as the "Greek Rock", Kyriakos Papadopoulos, the 20-year- old F.C Schalke defender plays a key part in the defense. He has been scouted by some of Europe's top clubs, and is known for playing mistake-free and having great positioning and tackling capabilities.

Head coach Fernando Santos, a 57-year-old rational and conservative Portuguese, prefers to deploy a well-organised 4-3-3 formation and the basic strategy is to keep it tight at the back, staying patient and waiting for the opponents to make mistakes.

Santos has extensive experience coaching at club level in both Portugal and Greece. He won a league title and two domestic cups with Porto from 1998 to 2001. He also brought PAOK to the Champions League in 2010.

Greece plays a relatively effective defensive system, cultivated under their last coach Otto Rehhagel. But after the Euro 2004 glory, similar tactics lost power. And the Greeks have lost 10 of 12 matches at major tournaments and not reached a knockout stage.

A major problem for Greece in recent tournaments has been inflexibility. Their game is predicated on not conceding goals. But that is not enough for an ambitious team.

Sotiris Ninis, the brilliant 22-year-old Panathinaikos right- winger or creative midfielder, is the shinning gun of the team. His touch, vision, change of pace and intuitive style added powder to the cynical-looking team.

However, Ninis suffered a nightmare 2011-12 season as he was sidelined for several months with damaged knee ligaments before then breaking his nose. He hoped to be fully fit for Euro 2012. And he has agreed to join Parma of Serie A next season.

Drawn in the weakest-looking and more evenly Group A with co- hosts Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic, Greece's fate will, in a sense, depend on their first game against Poland. Pull off a shock there and they will be on their way.


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