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Greece keep chances of repeat win in perspective

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Fri, Jun 08, 2012 04:44 hrs
Greece

Warsaw: Greece created one of the greatest upsets in international soccer when they won Euro 2004 after twice beating hosts Portugal, but were cagey about their chances of starting this tournament with another famous victory on Friday.

Euro 2012

Speaking on the eve of the opening game of Euro 2012 against co-hosts Poland in Warsaw's glittering new National Stadium, skipper Giorgios Karagounis said he would fancy their chances far more if "we were playing in front of 70,000 Greeks in Athens".



The 35-year-old skipper, a survivor from the 2004 squad and a veteran of 117 internationals, told reporters on Thursday: "This is an away match for us and I would much rather be playing it in Athens.

"Naturally we would like to start as we did in 2004, but we are the underdogs, I don't agree with the Poles that we are the favourites. The reality is we are playing in front of 50,000 Polish fans who want to see their team win - they have to win, and I hope we are not an easy target."

Greece were regarded as an easy target eight years ago when they faced Portugal in the opening match of Euro 2004 but stunned everyone with a 2-1 win.

Three weeks later they did the unthinkable and beat them again, silencing the home nation with a 1-0 triumph in the final in Lisbon.

That was Greece's last win in the finals as they lost all three matches in 2008. However, they came through the qualifiers unbeaten and although ranked among the outsiders again, their achievements in 2004 prove that no one can predict the outcome of a traditionally tight and high quality tournament.

Coach Fernando Santos, who took over from the title-winning Otto Rehhagel, chose his words carefully when he said it was difficult to compare the squads and the ambitions of the Greek side in 2004 with today.

"I don't see there is a link really," he said. "I did not take over from Otto Rehhagel in 2004, I took over in 2010. He wrote a golden chapter in the history of Greek soccer, but he had his philosophy and I have mine and it is hard to compare."

The 56-year-old Portuguese, who has coached Greek clubs PAOK, AEK Athens and Panathinaikos, added: "Of course I am very proud to succeed him, it was a great honour to take over from a man who led Greece to three major finals.

"Right now, no one feels more Greek than me. I have great satisfaction that we are here.

"We have a plan, we have a vision and if I can leave my mark on this team, as Rehhagel left a mark on his, then I will have done my job."

Santos said one factor that could work in Greece's favour was that Poland had been playing only friendlies for the last two years while Greece had come through a tough qualifying campaign.

"That could be significant. Poland are now playing an official match, and hopefully all the pressure is on them."



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