The team that defied the odds and won the 2004 European Championship is back for another crack at glory. After a horrible 2008 showing in which they were sent home without a victory, Greece will try to repeat history and do the unthinkable.
Greece, after winning the Euro in 2004, has qualified for their third straight European Championships and also qualified for its second World Cup.
Manger Fernando Santos has done a great job since taking over for Otto Rehhegal. With the team in transition, Santos has managed to blend in youngsters like Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Sotiris Ninis with 2004 veterans Georgios Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis.
Greece will again open this years European Championship against Poland on June 8. Here are a couple of facts to know when the Euro begins.
Talk about getting of on the right foot, coach Santos did with his incredible start with Greece. Having coached in Greece for years with Panathinaikos, AEK Athens, and PAOK, Fernando had knowledge of his players and was able to get out of the gates running.
Coach Santos began his tenure with a 17 game undefeated streak that started in August of 2010 and ended in November of 2011. During that time, Greece defeated Serbia, Croatia and drew with the likes of Russia, Poland and Belgium.
Fernando Santos record is 10-9-1 in 20 games as manager.
Greece by no means is an offensive team. In World Cup qualifying,Theofanis Gekas was tied for the Golden Boot with 10 goals scored. That was 2010. In 2012, Vasilis Torosidis, Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Giannis Fetfatzides were tied for the team lead with two. The huge problem is that Torosidis and Papadoulos are defenders.
Georgios Samaras, Kostas Mitroglou, Theofanis Gekas and Dimitrios Salpagidis scored a combined three goals in 27 games played. That is not good if you want to advance out of the group stage. Samaras and Mitroglou still have yet to leave a mark on the national team.
There are only three players remaining from the squad that won it all back in 2004 in Portugal. Kostas Chalkias, Georgios Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis are the lone holdovers.
Back in 2004, Kostas Chalkias was a reserve goalie that didn't see the pitch in any of the games Greece played. In 2012 Chalkias will be battling for a starting role with Alexander Tzorvas and Michael Sifakis.
In 2004 Georgios Karagounis appeared in four games for Greece. Scored a goal, received a yellow card in each game he played in and was suspended for the game against Russia and the final against Portugal. A feat that no one has yet matched. Now he is the captain of the squad.
Kostas Katsouranis appeared in all six games for Greece back in 2004. Katsouranis started in five of the games and was a substitute in the other. Kostas name wasn't in the stat sheet unless he received a yellow card, but he helped the Greek squad shut down the likes of Henry, Nedved, Figo and Zidane. That will be his role when he is expected to a starter for the Greeks again in 2012.
The captain of Greece, Georgios Karagounis, is a about to become the most decorated player of Greece. Karagounis enters the 2012 Euro with 117 caps, second all time. If Greece is able to get off the group stage, Karagounis will break Theodoros Zagorakis record of 120 caps.
The well traveled veteran of Inter, Benfica and now Panathinaikos, Karagounis has been with the national team since 1999.
Georgios has scored eight goals with the national team. While not lighting up the scoreboard with goals, he does have the knack for scoring important ones. He scored Greece first goal in 2004 giving Greece an early 1-0 lead against Portugal to start the Greece unbelievable ride.
Karagounis has captained the team to the 2008 Euros, the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euros. With him on the squad, Greece won its first ever World Cup match beating Nigeria 2-1.
Greece only allowed five goals in all of qualifying. That was quite an impressive feat since the line up was never the same for any game. Not only was the back line constantly changing, Fernando Santos trotted out three different goaltenders during qualification.
Left back was another position that coach Santos could never find an answer to. Loukas Vyntra, Geogrios Tzavellas, Nikos Spyropoulos were all featured during qualification. Jose Holebas, after being naturalized in November, looks to be the favorite to start now.
Greece has several youngsters that are about to make a name for themselves on the national stage. Unfortunately for them, coach Santos decided to go with experience instead of youth for the Euro Championship.
Players like Apostolis Vellios, Andreas Tatos, Pangiotis Kone, Giannis Skondras and Stefanos Kapino will all have to wait their turn.
The veterans will have to carry Greece if they expect to get out the first round. Theofanis Gekas, Dimitri Salpagidis, Georgios Fotakis, Kotsas Katsouranis and Georgios Karagounis will need to have one more good run in them for Greece to succeed.
Kostas Mitroglou scored a goal in eight straight games in the Greek Super League that spanned over two months. During that time period, Mitroglou helped Atromitos move to the top half of the league and earn its first appearance in Europe for the 2012/13 season.
Mitroglou finished with 16 goals, 2nd overall in the Greek Super League. The Olympiakos player is now on loan at Atromitos though has yet to score one for his country in 13 appearances. That will hopefully change after a very productive season.
Having qualified for the last three major championships, Greece is now ranked a very respectable 14 in the world according to FIFA. Over the last 4 years, Greece has not dropped out of the top 20.
Greece's good results in qualifications and friendlies have kept them among the top 10 in Europe, which allows them a better (easier) qualifying group.
Despite a picking a veteran group of players to bring to Poland, Greece has plenty of players under the age of 24. Players like Sotiris Ninis, Giannis Fetfatzides, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Kyriakos Papadopoulos are great building blocks for Greece to build around.
Others that will be the core of Greece's roster for Brazil 2014 qualification will include Kostas Mitroglou, Vasilis Torosidis and Stefanos Athanasiadis. With the exception of Athanasiadis who didn't make the roster, all will see plenty of action in Poland.
If I were a betting man, I wouldn't mind taking a couple of these odds with Greece.
Odds Greece wins it all: 80/1
Wins its Group: 9/2
Advance out of Group: 6/4
Greece 11/4 Vs Poland 1/1
Courtesy of Skybet