10 Things You Need to Know About Fernando Santos' Greece
Fernando Santos' Greece kick off their World Cup campaign against Colombia on June 14, 2014.
Whilst they are certainly outsiders for significant World Cup success, a relatively favourable draw and an excellent team spirit mean that there is some cause to hope they can progress through the group stages.
Here are 10 things you need to know about Greece to pass the bluffer’s guide test before that happens.
They Do Not Score Many Goals
Quite often the received wisdom about international football teams becomes inaccurate whilst people are still using it. Brazil are not a particularly fluent and expressive side this time around.
Any success Germany have will be on the back of their excellent attacking players rather than their organisation and discipline.
However, the truism embedded in people’s minds as a result of Greece’s Euro 2004 victory that they do not score many goals is certainly still accurate.
They scored only 12 goals in their 10-game qualifying campaign, managing a total of only three in the two games against Liechtenstein.
They Have a Decent Defence
In prioritising defensive football, Greece are playing to their strengths.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos plays at the heart of the Borussia Dortmund defence. Kostas Manolas, his likely centre-back partner, is a breakout star of the Olympiakos side that have swept all before them in the Greek Super League.
Jose Holebas is a decent left-back who is capable of making a significant attacking contribution. Vasilis Torosidis, the likely starting right-back, plies his trade for Roma.
There are slight issues with cover at centre-back, but with some tactical switching, they should be able to withstand all but the most serious injury crisis.
They Have a Solid Goalkeeper
Orestis Karnezis is Greece’s first-choice goalkeeper. He has found himself second in the pecking order to Roberto at his home club Granada, but following Roberto's injuries, he has managed a string of confidence-building performances, notably against Barcelona.
He has also been an effective force for Greece. Although their scoring record in qualification was poor, Greece's defensive record was excellent as they conceded only four goals, keeping a clean sheet in each of their home games.
Their World Cup Record Is Abysmal
It is a big deal for Greece to be at the World Cup. This is only their third-ever appearance at finals.
They will be looking to improve significantly on their overall record, which reads played six, won one, drawn none, lost five, scored two, conceded 15.
They Have Their Own 'Lampard and Gerrard'
Greece's midfield contains very significant experience in the form of Georgios "Giorgos" Karagounis and Konstantinos "Kostas" Katsouranis who have 241 caps between them.
They have played together many times but now tend to be used in an "either or" capacity.
Greek World Cup squad. For Gerrard & Lampard read Karagounis & Katsouranis pic.twitter.com/cU1UomAAAo— Nikos (@Sleepy_Nik) https://twitter.com/Sleepy_Nik/statuses/469376361485062144">May 22, 2014
Amaze your friends with this quirk of the draw.
This is the first time Greece have ever been at a World Cup finals without being drawn against Nigeria and Argentina in the group stages. Their other opponents were Bulgaria in 1994 and South Korea in 2010.
This time around, Greece could not have hoped for a much more favourable draw. Whilst all the teams in their group are capable of providing a significant threat—and it would not be an enormous shock to see Greece repeat their 1994 feat of failing to register a win—there remains a reasonable chance that if they can get off to a good start against Colombia, they can make it through the group.
Ioannis 'Giannis' Fetfatzidis and Panagiotis Kone Could Provide Needed Flair
Neither Giannis Fetfatzidis or Panagiotis Kone are a natural fit for Santos' preferred 4-3-3 formation, but they both offer flair from the bench.
Genoa playmaker Fetfatzidis failed to impress at Euro 2012, having been hailed as the man to add silk to Greece's steel, and Kone has not made a particularly telling contribution to Bologna, who have been relegated from Serie A.
However, both have the potential to conjure up some magic and are likely to see minutes if Greece need a goal late on in games.
Greece Take a Mean Set Piece
PAOK left-back Georgios Tzavellas is in the squad as cover for Jose Holebas, but he may be called upon should Greece get a free-kick late in a game they are chasing.
Possessed of a cultured left foot, Tzavellas may not be the best defender, but he excels in dead-ball situations.
Karagounis is another fine proponent of the art of set pieces, and it will be interesting to see who takes Greece's corners and free-kicks if the uber-experienced Fulham man finds himself out of the starting XI.
Santos Is a Proponent of 4-3-3
Whilst Greece justly retain their reputation for defensive-mindedness, Santos is no Otto Rehhagel. Where Rehhagel prised function over all else, Santos likes his team to play football.
There is some debate as to who will form the midfield three for this World Cup, but the front three are likely to be Georgios Samaras on the left, Kostas Mitroglou through the middle and Dimitris Salpingidis on the right.
Quick counter-attacks will need to come down the right, with Salpingidis preferring the direct approach, whereas measured attempts to break through opposition defences could come from the dribbling ability of Samaras.
Either way, the finishing will be best done by Mitroglou, who is a cut above his colleagues in that department.
Santos Is Bowing Out After the World Cup
Santos' time in charge of Greece has been a success by any reasonable measure. He ensured qualification for Euro 2012, and World Cup qualification was by no means a formality.
However, this will be his last tournament in charge of the Greeks, as he has already announced he is stepping down after the World Cup, regardless of results, per FIFA.com.