World Cup 2014 Group C – Greece

Outright odds: 350/1

To win group: 8/1

To qualify: 23/10

 

Full squad: Orestis Karnezis (Granada), Panagiotis Glykos (PAOK), Stefanos Kapino (Panathinaikos), Kostas Manolas, Giannis Maniatis, Jose Holebas (all Olympiacos), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund), Giorgios Tzavellas (PAOK), Loukas Vyntra (Levante), Vasilis Torosidis (Roma), Vangelis Moras (Verona), Alexandros Tziolis (Kayserispor), Andreas Samaris (Olympiacos), Kostas Katsouranis (PAOK), Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham), Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Torino), Ioannis Fetfatzidis (Genoa), Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (Bologna) Panagiotis Kone (Bologna), Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK), Giorgios Samaras (Celtic), Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham), Theofanis Gekas (Konyaspor).

 

Manager: Fernando Santos

 

World Cup record: Group stage (1994, 2010)

 

Tournaments generally tend to be won by the world’s elite but the one of the  alternatives of recent times is Greece, who landed Euro 2004 in a fairy-tale win for their nation 10 years ago, but have never been to a World Cup last 16 before.

 

Generally seen as fourth favourites, there are a strong couple of cases to be made for Greece going through the group and limping out at the group stages. They made it through the group at Euro 2012 in a section that looked stronger before it was played rather than afterwards, beating a disappointing Russia on the head to heads as Poland flopped and the Czech Republic impressed, and then being dismantled by Germany in the quarter-finals 4-0.

 

Their qualifying for Brazil was also rather impressive – they were level on points with Bosnia (with a total that would have been enough to see them through as winners in five of the other eight groups in Europe) and had to go through the playoffs only thanks to goal difference – and they made short work of Romania over their two legs. In 20 games they conceded just 4 goals, an impressive achievement even given the leap in class from the likes of Slovakia and Lithuania in qualifying.

 

 

It’s getting goals that could be the problem with just 12 scored in the 10 qualifying games. Konstas Mitroglou lead the line with 5 goals, including three of the 4 that took them to Brazil, but his lack of gametime with Fulham is hugely disconcerting even if his scoring record reads well. Theofanis Gekas has been called out of retirement but it’s hard to trust him to be at the peal of his powers and Georgios Samaras looks a better outlet, although he too could have done better than 20 games and just 7 league goals in the SPL.

 

It’s in defence where they really shine, however. Sokratis Papastathopoulos has  had a fine season for Bourssia Dortmund, shining bright in a league campaign which didn’t offer all that much for them on any front, and partner Loukas Vyntra at least was a mainstay of Levante’s own defence with 33 league starts in the season and Vassilis Torosidis was a regular presence in a Roma side that surpassed all expecations.

 

 

It is in midfield, where thirty-six-year-old Giorgos Karagounis will be part of a manful effort along with Alexandros Tziolis of Kayserispor and Kostas Katsouranis of PAOK, where Geece could come unstuck in a very tough section for them. Making the last 16 would be one of their finest achievements.

 

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