(Over the next month or so, we’re going to be doing previews for all 32 teams participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Yes, all 32 teams. We’ll make you laugh, cry, get mad and perhaps question why you read us in the first place. We hope you enjoy the product nonetheless)
Hey, did you know that Greece won Euro 2004? Sorry, it just feels like we’re contractually obligated to mention one of the great outliers in football history any time we have to talk about Greece’s chances in Tournament X. Yes, Greece will forever have that title in their mantle and it was a prime example of team unity triumphing over talent (we’ll ignore the fact that it was also the dreaded example of destroyers having great success over creators). It was one of the great upsets in football history and one of the most proud moments Greece has had.
Since 2004, Greece have not been able to replicate any form of success in international tournaments, with their best showing coming in Euro 2012, bowing out to Germany in the quarterfinals. Their road to qualification resulted in their victory in the playoffs vs Romania to make it to Brazil. Only 12 goals were produced for Greece in qualifying, but the 4 goals conceded tied England, Belgium, and Ukraine for the second least goals conceded of all European teams in qualifications.
Greece couldn’t have asked for a better group in the World Cup, especially for a nation that despite their championship in Euro 2004 have not gotten past the group stage. Just like your father’s Greece sides of yesteryears, this iteration makes their name with defense, something that may again expose the limitations of Greece’s offensive imagination and resources.
Goalkeepers: Orestis Karnezis (Granada), Panagiotis Glykos (PAOK Salonika), Stefanos Kapino (Panathinaikos).
Defenders: Giannis Maniatis (Olympiakos), Giorgos Tzavellas (PAOK), Kostas Manolas (Olympiakos), Vangelis Moras (Hellas Verona), Loukas Vyntra (Levante), Vasilis Torosidis (Roma), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund), Jose Holebas (Olympiakos).
Midfielders: Alexandros Tziolis (Kayserispor), Panagiotis Kone (Bologna), Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham), Lazaros Christodoupoulos (Bologna), Giannis Fetfatzidis (Genoa), Kostas Katsouranis (PAOK), Andreas Samaris (Olympiakos), Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Torino)
Strikers: Giorgos Samaras (Celtic), Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham), Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK), Theofanis Gekas (Konyaspor).
Two players to watch for Greece in this tournament are Mitroglou and Fetfatzidis. Mitroglou’s three goals in the playoff vs Romania were super key in getting Greece into the World Cup. He was a goal scoring terror with Olympiacos the last two seasons, tallying 37 goals in 61 appearances in all competitions the last two seasons. Sadly, his time with Fulham so far has been dreadful, with only 3 appearances since the move to the EPL. He’s to this point stayed quiet on his future for Fulham, with Fulham’s relegation to the Championship for next season.
In the case of Fetfatzidis, there’s the hope of him being the next Lionel Messi… OK that’s probably not going to happen, but Greece do have high hopes for the winger. He didn’t get consistent time for Genoa in Serie A this season but he’s a talented dribbler who in all honesty has the same build as Messi and scored a Messi-esque goal in the Greek Cup semi finals last year while still with Olympiacos.
He and Mitroglou will be essential to Greece because we know at the very least that they’ll be structured defensively. The question has been for the longest time whether they have enough going forward to compliment. The likes of Papastathopoulos, Karagounis, Torosidis will be stout defensively, and the 4 goals that Greece only allowed in qualifying lend to that. Plus I’m still not so sure about the idea of destroyers and creators being on level footing in international football. Euro 2008/2012 did prove that creators are stemming the tide in this eternal battle of football beauty, but the World Cup in South Africa proved a bit differently (although the ball itself didn’t do much help). I feel as if the 2014 FIFA World Cup will show us where we truly are with the creators vs. destroyers angle.
Greece out of the teams previewed so far clock in as one of the weaker ones, but may also double as the most stingy as a collective unit. I know, it’s very cliché to say stuff like this with Greece, but there’s an air of truth with it. Their rise as a football nation has come through the idea of the collective unit being better than the individual talent, and this iteration should see more of the same. Mitroglou/Fetfatzidis/Samaras will be essential in getting enough goals to augment the defensive abilities that Greece possess. Despite having a group with no traditional powers in it, Greece will have to dig deep if they want to make another shock and reach the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time in their history.