Here at UF we decided to get a jump on things a little earlier than most and preview the upcoming Euro 2008 competition. Although we each had favorite teams that we wanted to cover, there were some teams left over. Greece is one of those teams. There is nothing wrong with "The Pirate Ship" (seriously, that's their nickname), but they are a little bland. Besides, do you know how much time I spent making sure I spelled all these names correctly?
Greece enters Euro 2008 as the defending champion, after having defeated Portugal 2-1 (in Portugal!) in the Euro 2004 championship match. This is not necessarily good news, as no country has ever successfully defended the European Championship title. Greece started out well during qualifying for Euro 2008, winning their first 3 games, and their success continued throughout their remaining games, resulting in the team finishing with 31 points (the most of any team in qualifying).
They have been placed in Group D for the Euro 2008 finals with Sweden (game on 6/10), Russia (6/14), and Spain (6/18). Although a somewhat formidable draw, coach Otto Rehhagel (the national team's longest-serving coach) is confident in his team:
GK: Kostas Chalkias; Antonis Nikopolidis
DEF: Paraskevas Antzas; Traianos Dellas; Giannis Goumas; Michalis Kapsis; Sotirios Kyrgiakos; Christos Patsatzoglou; Giourkas Seitaridis; Nikos Spyropoulos; Vassilis Torosidis; Loukas Vyntra
MID: Angelos Basinas; Stelios Giannakopoulos; Giorgos Karagounis; Kostas Katsouranis; Alexis Tziolis; Ioannis Amanatidis
ST: Angelos Charisteas; Theofanis Gekas; Nikos Liberopoulos; Vangelis Mantzios; Dimitrios Salpigidis; Georgios Samaras
In general, captain Angelos Basinas (MID) is considered to be Greece's most important player, but the breakout star of Euro 2008 may be Sotirios Kyrgiakos (DEF). Hungry for national team play after missing Euro 2004 due to injuries, Kyrgiakos scored 3 goals in 12 qualifying matches.
Now, the important questions:
(1) Could England (wot, wot? They're not in Euro 2008?) beat this team? Yes, England could beat this team, and rather easily. The last three times that Greece and England have faced off in international competition have resulted in England 2 - Greece 2 and England 2 - Greece 0 (in 2001 qualifying matches for the 2002 World Cup), and England 4 - Greece 0 (international friendly). Don't be confused by the fact that Greece has a FIFA ranking of 8th, while England has a ranking of 11.
(2) Can Greece win Euro 2008? Well, theoretically, they could, but they won't. Ladbrokes currently has them as 25-1 underdogs to win.
(3) What is their pre-made excuse for not winning Euro 2008? Can't you people read - I mentioned up top that no one has ever successfully defended the European Championship football title. Surely Greece can't be expected to do what has never been done before!
(4) What is the biggest question mark surrounding their team? The question here is really one of talent. The overwhelming majority of the Greece national team players ply their trade in the Greek leagues, with only 1 in the EPL (suck it, Barclay's!) at Bolton, 2 in Portugal, and 4 in the German Bundeliga. Can a team comprised almost exclusively of players with minimal international football exposure compete on the grand European stage?
(5) Who is their worst player? I literally have no idea, since I have never heard of 99.62% of these guys.