22 June 2012

Greece Hoping for 2004-esque Performance Against Germany

Greece are in a crisis that could affect the whole of Europe, especially the Germans. The Greeks are angry at Chancellor Merkel for carrying on the austerity plan despite of the worsening situation in Greece where Euro 2012 has taken a back seat so far as a result of the elections. With a government finally now in place, coupled with the success of the Greek football side so far, attention will turn to a much-anticipated quarter-final with Germany. This is also a great opportunity for Greece to get their own back on a country that has not done them many favours in recent months. 

However they face a side that they have never beaten in eight matches, losing five times. Despite this the Germans have never beaten Greece in a major tournament and their only previous meeting in a European Championship ended 0-0 in 1980. Back then Greece had no real football history and it was their first appearance at a major finals which they departed at the group stage. Their next appearance came in World Cup 1994 where the first round once again proved a step too far. Although in 2001 legendary German coach Otto Rehhagel took over the manager's job and improved results brought them Euro 2004 qualification. This was a great achievement in itself and some bookmakers priced them at 150/1 to win the tournament. Nevertheless this did not deter them and they shocked Portugal, France, Czech Republic and then hosts Portugal again in the final to win an astonishing title. 

Rehhagel became a legendary figure in Greece as a result and they also qualified for Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010; at one point holding eighth place in the FIFA World Rankings. When he resigned as manager many Greeks became sceptical of whether or not they could carry on as a top footballing side. Despite these fears they have continued to exceed expectations and qualified for this year's tournament as group winners over the more-fancied Croatia. So far at the finals Fernando Santos's side have surprised many in qualifying for the knock-out stages which they did with a shocking 1-0 win over Russia. This will give them hope of doing well against an excellent German side who still look like they could move up another gear. 

Mario Gomez is rumoured to be replaced in the starting line-up by Miroslav Klose who is a lofty second in the list of Euro and World Cup finals goals with 16. The Germans have an array of attacking talent behind him in Mesut Ozil, Thomas Meuller and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Added to this is a powerful back-line led by captain Phillip Lahm and Bayern Munich defender Holger Badstuber. However the Greeks will be hopeful of catching out the Germans on the counter-attack who do have a lack of pace. But Joachim Loew's team will be confident of scoring goals and have not failed to score in 19 international matches, the longest ever scoring streak tied with Uruguay. 

Europe expects victory for the three-time winners but as Greece have proved in the recent past they should never be written off. They are always hard to beat and play as a team with great passion and fight. Germany will feel they have much more quality and that a professional performance should be enough to seal a smooth passage into the semi-finals. 

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