Greece coach Otto Rehhagel has announced his provisional squad for this summer’s World Cup.
There were few surprises from the conservative German, who will choose 25 players from this 30-man roster to take to the Greek training camp in Switzerland on May 17th.
Last week, Rehhagel named nine foreign-based stars in the provisional squad, all of whom will almost certainly be traveling to South Africa.
So, the fight for places in the final 23-man roster is between the players from Greece’s domestic league.
Barring any injuries, the three goalkeepers in the provisional roster will be in Port Elizabeth on June 12th for Greece’s opening match against South Korea, with Panathinaikos’ Alexandros Tzorvas a favorite to start.
The Greek defense will definitely include Liverpool’s Sotiris Kyrgiakos, along with Italy-based defenders, Vangelis Moras and Sokratis Papasthatopoulos.
Avraam Papadopoulos and Vasilis Torosidis, both of Olympiakos, will also make the final cut.
Panathinaikos pair, Loukas Vyntra and Giorgos Seitaridis, are both likely first-team starters.
Their teammate, Nikos Spiropoulos, should also be on the plane to South Africa, along with one more name from the remaining group of inexperienced defenders.
If Rehhagel was ever going to spring a surprise, he might choose highly regarded AEK Athens teenager Kostas Manolas—nephew of legendary Greek defender Stelios Manolas.
More realistically, the final defensive spot will go to PAOK Salonika’s Stelios Malezas, who featured in the squad for the recent Senegal friendly.
Greece’s other rated teenage defender, Kyriakos Papadopoulo—whose club Olympiakos has reportedly agreed to a €4m deal for the 18-year old with Manchester City—is not on Rehhagel’s provisional roster.
Neither is Bundesliga-based Vasileios Pliatsikas, who tore knee ligaments at the beginning of 2010 and is not expected back until after the World Cup.
In midfield, Rehhagel’s final 23 will definitely feature Christos Patsatzoglou of new Cypriot league champions AC Omonia, and Alexandros Tziolis, recently relegated from Italy’s Serie A with Siena.
But it is domestic-based players who are most prominent in Greece’s midfield roster, with captain Giorgios Karagounis a certain starter, alongside Kostus Katsouranis. Their Panathinaikos teammate, 21-year-old Sotiris Ninis—a reported target for Manchester United—will also make the final squad.
Former U-21 captain Grigoris Makos should take the last midfield spot in the final 23, though as a surprise inclusion in the provisional roster, uncapped veteran Sakis Prittas may be a bigger part of Rehhagel’s plans than is generally assumed.
Unsurprisingly, AEK Athens veteran Pantelis Kafes did not make the 30-man roster, after only featuring in a handful of games for his club this season.
Up front, Celtic’s Georgio Samaras, veteran Nuremburg striker Angelos Charisteas, and Herta Berlin’s Theofanis Gekas will all be featured, despite not seeing regular action at their clubs.
Panathinaikos’ Dimitris Salpigidis—who scored the winner against Ukraine that took Greece to the World Cup finals—is also a certainty.
The notable inclusion in Rehhagel’s roster is Steaua Bucharest striker Pantelis Kapetanos, though it is hardly surprising, given the 26-year old’s goal-scoring form for the Romanian side and recent first-team debut during Greece’s friendly defeat to Senegal.
Kapetanos is seen as a replacement for Eintract Frankfurt forward, Ioannis Amanatidis, who last month withdrew himself from contention due to injury.
Kapetanos’ inclusion may mean Olympiakos’ leading scorer Kostas Mitroglou misses out on the final 23, unless the usually defensively minded Rehhagel decides to take six strikers to South Africa and omit one of the younger defenders.
Rehhagel must submit his final selection of 23 players for Greece’s World Cup squad by FIFA’s June 01st deadline.
Greece: Full 30-Man Provisional Roster
Michalis Sifakis (Aris Salonika), Alexandros Tzorvas (Panathinaikos), Kostas Chalkias (PAOK Salonika).
Giorgos Seitaridis (Panathinaikos), Loukas Vyntra (Panathinaikos), Evangelos Moras (Bologna), Socrates Papastathopoulos (Genoa), Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Liverpool), Avraam Papadopoulos (Olympiakos), Vasilis Torosidis (Olympiakos), Nikos Spiropoulos (Panathinaikos), Stelios Malezas (PAOK Salonika), Giorgos Tzavellas (Panionios), Kostas Manolas (AEK Athens), Giorgos Galitsios (Olympiakos), Stergos Marinos (Panathinaikos)
Kostas Katsouranis (Panathinaikos), Alexandros Tziolis (Siena), Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos), Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos), Christos Patsatzoglou (Omonia), Grigoris Makos (AEK Athens), Sakis Prittas (Aris Salonika), Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (Panathinaikos)
Angelos Charisteas (Nürnberg), Dimitris Salpigidis (Panathinaikos), Pantelis Kapetanos (Steaua Bucharest), Theofanis Gekas (Hertha Berlin), Giorgos Samaras (Celtic), Kostas Mitroglou (Olympiakos)