Team profile: Greece

Team profile: Greece
By Reuters

24/05/2012 at 22:06Updated 24/05/2012 at 22:07

Few people believed Greece could win Euro 2004, but even fewer think it possible they will ever repeat such a success.

Eight years on from arguably the country's greatest sporting achievement, Greece once again find themselves as rank outsiders ahead of a major tournament.

Greece fans will tell you there is nothing wrong with being underdogs because, of course, they audaciously won the tournament in Portugal as 100-1 outsiders, but the likelihood of the current team emulating that feat appears remote.

The manager may have changed, with Portuguese Fernando Santos refreshing the squad by experimenting with younger players, as well as keeping faith in a few well-established generals, but not too much else.

The current team is still based essentially on the principles established by Otto Rehhagel: defensive solidity and an obsession with organisation and set pieces.

Greece conceded just five times in 10 qualifying matches, but they also scored only 14 times, the lowest goals scored tally of any of the teams which qualified.

Santos is spoilt for choice when it comes to determined and energetic defenders. Greek player of the year Avraam Papadopoulos of Olympiacos and Werder Bremen's Sokratis Papastathopoulos are his first-choice central defensive pairing, while highly-rated centre back Kyriakos Papadopoulos, 19, is making strong claims for a starting berth.

He was not used in the first half of the campaign, but the Schalke youngster started four of the final five qualifiers, impressing with his maturity. He can also play as a holding midfielder and scored important goals against Latvia and Malta.

Santos also has a touch of finesse in his backline in full backs Vasilis Torosidis and Jose Holebas. Both love to go forward and are capable of both scoring goals and making them. Holebas, in particular, has made great strides since his international debut last November.

Born in Germany, of a Greek father and Uruguayan mother, Holebas has plenty of pace and skill, as well as tackling ability, and his forward forays have seen him played at both left back and on the left side of midfield.

They are backed up with the likes of Olympiacos' Giannis Maniatis and Monaco's Giorgos Tzavellas.

Greece's attack is without doubt their problem area.

Celtic's Giorgos Samaras plays in a wide role in Greece's 4-3-3 system and although his pace provides a threat, he does not score enough goals.

Fanis Gekas is likely to lead the attack, but the 31-year-old striker's scoring touch seems to have deserted him.

The former Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen striker, top scorer in the 2010 World Cup European qualifiers with 10 goals, is looking increasingly immobile.

In midfield, there are both problems and positives in equal measure.

At the World Cup, most fans thought they had waved farewell to longstanding pair Kostas Katsouranis and Giorgos Karagounis, but the duo are still there even if Karagounis has to settle for a place on the bench as he chases Theo Zagorakis's record of 120 caps.

Panathinaikos man Katsouranis will be the central cog in the midfield where he will be supported by the likes of defensive midfielders Grigoris Makos, Alexandros Tziolis and Giorgos Fotakis.

The creative element is expected to come from Sotiris Ninis.