Monday, May 17, 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup: Greece

We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa.

Appearance: Second
Last time there: 1994, exited in first round
Best performance: Has never advanced past first round

Greece never makes anything easy.

A shocking run in Euro 2004 brought them a major international championship.

The response: Greece turned around and failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2006.

This past qualifying season was supposed to be a cinch for the Greeks. They were in a group with Switzerland, Latvia, Israel, Luxembourg, and Moldova. Instead of going through that group like a knife through hot butter, the Greeks spun their wheels, finishing second to the Swiss and needing a playoff against Ukraine to move on.

Only a road goal saved them after a goalless draw in the first leg, but Greece was in the finals.

Their last World Cup trip saw them outscored 10-0 in three matches (Argentina, Bulgaria, and Nigeria). Oddly, two of those three 1994 opponents (Argentina and Nigeria) are back in Greece's group again, and they should be equally troublesome for a hard-working team that is severely lacking in depth.

Some of Greece's front line guys could cause trouble for an unsuspecting opponent. Theofanis Gekas scored ten goals in 12 games during qualifying. Captain Giorgos Karagounis is a capable midfield player. Look out for Angelos Charisteas, who might be Greece's most dangerous sub. He can score goals and is a good athlete.

Much pressure will be placed on goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias to keep the Greeks in games. Given that this nation won Euro 2004 with many of these players, there's no reason to completely dismiss them from this group. They could surprise if they stay healthy and play sound fundamental soccer.

June 12 vs. South Korea (Port Elizabeth)
June 17 vs. Nigeria (Bloemfontein)
June 22 vs. Argentina (Polokwane)

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