The Greek national team continues to enjoy its most successful period in international football – by way of qualification for major tournaments – having qualified for the last three successive European Championships along with the 2010 World Cup, in comparison to the one European Championship before 2004 (in 1980) and one World Cup appearance before 2010 (in 1994). This period has culminated in their shock triumph in 2004 (pictured above).
Eight years on from that victory, Greece continue to stick to their basic principles when it comes to approaching games. Unfortunately, four years ago in Austria and Switzerland the Greeks were sent packing without so much as a whimper in defending their European crown, and thus becoming the first defending champion not to earn a single point in the next European Championship as they lost all three games to Sweden, Russia and Spain. Greece can realistically qualify for the knockout stage this time around, though with games against Poland and Czech Republic are key, ahead of the final group games against Russia.
While the manager might have changed since the last tournament, the Portuguese, Fernando Santos replacing Otto Rehhagel after almost ten years in charge, certainly a tough act to follow – Santos has very much continued with the philosophy of his predecessor – defensive solidity (5 goals conceded in 10 qualifying games) and the importance of set-pieces, makes Greece a side that a difficult to break down. Since taking charge, Santos has suffered just one defeat in 19 games, a 3-1 loss in a friendly to Romania – managing to remain unbeaten in their qualification for Poland-Ukraine and topping their group ahead of Croatia winning seven games of the ten games and drawing the other three.
The Greeks have plenty of experience in their ranks, including those who have played a part in the 2004 triumph such as captain, Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis. The likes of Fanis Gekas, Giorgos Samaras, Nikos Liberopoulos, Vasilis Torosidis are all mainstays from the 2008 tournaments. Those players combined possess at total of 429 international caps, combined with the youth of Kyriakos Papadopoulous (20), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (23), Sotiris Ninis (22) and Giannis Fetfatzidis (21), there is certainly a lot of promise in this Greek side.
Fixtures: Greece vs. Poland (June, 8th), Greece vs. Czech Rep (June, 12th) and Greece vs. Russia (June, 16th)