With Group B being side open for second place Greece, Nigeria, and South Korea will all have an oppertunity to progress to the second round and have Group C's winner. Greece opens its shot at advancing first vs South Korea on Saturday June 12, followed vs Nigieria on June 17th and finishing the group stage against Argentina on June 22nd.
Greece qualified for the World Cup after finishing 2nd in the group stage to Switzerland and then defeating Ukraine 1-0 in a home and home series back in November. Greece advanced to its 2nd World Cup and first since 1994.
Greece is lead by coach Otto Rehhegal who since taking over Greece national team in 2001 has taken the team to new heights never seen before. After just missing out in qualifying for the World Cup in 2002, Greece upset the world by winning the European Championships in Portugal in 2004. A 1000-1 underdog back then in 2004 has almost the same odds in winning the World Cup but according to most experts no shot at advancing to the knockout stage.
The 2010 Greek roster is a mix of new blood along with 2004 veterans. With captain Georgios Karagounis Greece has a talent play maker with a deft touch on free kicks. Theofanis Gekas led all of Europe with 10 goals in qualifying upfront along with Celtic striker Georgios Samaras Greece has a formable duo upfront. Other forwards include 2004 championship scorer Angelos Charisteas, Romanian league golden boot winner Pantelis Kapetanos and Dimitris Salpagidis.
In the Midfield along side Karagounis is the future of Greek football Sotiris Ninis. Ninis help Panathinaikos in winning the Greek double in 2009-2010 season and advancing to the round of 16 in the EuropeLeague. While Ninis will be at his attacking best Kostas Katsouranis will be at his defense midfield position. Katsouranis is a defensive master but also able to score key goals from set pieces. As remaining member from the 2004 championship squad will be looked upon for leadership. Other midfielders include Athanasios Prittas, Alexandros Tziolis and Christos Patsatzoglou.
In the back what used to be a strength is now a little subject. Central defenders of Sotirios Kygriakos and Evangelos Moras are tall defenders but are slow and out muscled by opponents. Our best defenders are Vasilios Torosidis and Giorkas Seitaridis who are both coming off injury seasons for the club teams. When both are in form its hard to crack the defense from either wing. Loukas Vyntra, Nikos Spyropoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos have also seen alot of playing time in qualifying round and in the three friendlies leading up to the World Cup. Sokaratis Papastrathopoulos and Stilianos Melezas round out the defense.
Between the pipes, Coach Rehhegal will choose from a veteran Kostas Chalkias, and between youngster Alexander Tzorvas and Michalis Sifakis. Tzorvas was in goal for both legs against Ukraine when Greece advanced and will be looked at the #1. Sifakis is right behind him but he lacks experience with the National team and Chalkias has been a reliable understudy in Greece championship squad.
Greece hasn't played well in its two most recent games tuning up for the Cup. Against North Korea the defense allowed to many chances and were run all over the field. Despite scoring goals in the opening minutes of each half North Korea outplayed Greece. In their last tuneup against Paraguay scored two early goals but Greece settled down and had a goal disallowed in their 2-0 loss to Paraguay.
If Greece is going to advance they will need to get a result vs Korea and the same vs Nigeria.Four points in the first two games is a must. Facing Argentina in a must win for advancing is not where you want to be.
In order to get a crucial point or three against the Koreans Greece must shore up its central defense. Moras, Vyntra, Kygriakos and or Avraam Papadopoulos must be physical and must use their height to their advantage against the Koreans. Wearing down the Koreans will slow them down and allow Greece to have the game at their pace. The Koreans are very thin team that already lost one of its star players to injury and will miss the first game against Greece.
Secondly Greece must score outside of set pieces. Georgios Samaras will be a key man upfront as most teams will look to silence Gekas after leading Europe in scoring in qualifying. Samaras hasn't found the net alot with the national team but his passing has set up crucial goals for Greece including the game winner against Ukraine to qualify for the Cup.
How coach Rehhegal uses Sotiris Ninis in this competition will be important for the Greeks to advance. Probably best suited to come off the bench Ninis speed and passing will be needed to change the pace of the game against both South Korea and Nigeria. Ninis single handly helped Panathinaikos beat Roma in Italy to advance to the round of 16 in the Europeleague.
Fittness will be a key as if Seiteridis and Torosidis are healthy and able to play a full game Greece will have to lock down defenders along the wings and two very good crossers of the ball when the move up. Torosidis healthy is probably the key here as he can move up to midfield and play upfront and allow Greece to play with an extra attacking player on counter attacks and set pieces.
Finally the Greeks will need one last great run from Captain Georgios Karagounis. The captain has had a mini revival in his return to Panathinaikos. The Greek teams plays as well as he does. With these games set to be the last for many players (Karagounis, Katsouranis, Patsatzoglou, Chalkias, Charisteas) a great run from all of them will help them succeed.
My starting Eleven for the Cup:
G- Alexandros Tzorvas
RB- Gouirkas Seiteridis
CB- Evangelos Moras
LB- Vasilis Torosidis
DMF- Kostas Katsouranis
AMF- Georgios Karagounis (CAPTAIN)
MF- Alexandros Tziolis
CF- Theofanis Gekas
F- Dimitri Salpagidis
Off the bench Ninis, Kapetanos and Patsatzoglou will be introduced to either add more offense or add another defender to the midfield. I aslo see Papadopoulos, Kygriakos and Spyropoulos to play in the three games as the health and performance of the defense is at a question.