Greece

Population: 11.4 million (UN 2012)

Area: 131,957 sq km

Capital: Athens

Currency: Euro

Federation: The Hellenic Football Federation, founded in 1926, affiliated to FIFA in 1927.

Registered players: 359,230

Kit colours: All white with blue trim

Team nickname: Piratiko (The Pirate Ship)

World Cup record: First round (1994, 2010)

European Championship appearances: 3 (1980, 2004, 2008, 2012)

European Championship record: Winners (2004), first round (1980, 2008), quarter-finals (2012)

How they qualified for FIFA World Cup 2014: Came 2nd in Europe zone Group G with 25pts won 8 lost 1 drew 1, 12 goals for and 4 against, behind Bosnia on 25pts, but ahead of Slovakia 13, Lithuania 11, Latvia 8 and Liechtenstein 2. Then beat Romania in the play-offs 3-1, 1-1 (4-2 on agg).

Top clubs: Olympiakos, Panathinaikos, AEK Athens

Key players:

FIFA Rank:

Coach:

The 2004 European champions Greece will appear at a third World Cup in Brazil after 1994 and 2010 and their fifth major tournament in the last decade, thanks mainly to a mean defence and a ruthless counter-attacking trap.

Only Spain (3) conceded less goals in the European qualifiers as trusty ‘keeper Orestis Karnezis let in just four goals with Borussia Dortmund central defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos and full-back Vasilis Torosidis having fought like 300 Spartans to get Greece to Brazil 2014.

Eye-brows were raised across Europe when Greece bagged three goals in a single game when seeing off Romania in the qualifiers (4-1 on agg), because the Greeks have, despite their up-and-coming striker Konstantinos Mitroglu, a problem getting goals.

They amassed an impressive 25 points from their ten group games, but so did Bosnia, who racked up 28 goals to win the group on goal dfference and send Greece into a play-off with Romania.

Five of Greece’s eight wins in qualifying were 1-0 nail-biters, and fans from Euro 2004 will recognize a pattern here as the mythical 2004 team beat defending champs France, top rated Czech Republic and tournament hosts Portugal all by 1-0 in the knock-out stages that year.

The then German coach Otto Rehhagel had harnessed the wild indiscipline of the Greek character and forged a remarkably tight defence as well as pioneering the counter-attacking style that ended up stunning the football world.

Rehhagel left after nine years when the team fell flat at South Africa 2010.

He was replaced by another foreigner in Portugal’s Fernando Santos, who, while constandly standing on the sideline with a hangdog look, immediately led Greece to the Euro 2012 finals, where it took Germany to stop them in the quarters.

Of the class of 2004, only midfielders Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis are still going strong in an outfit where Santos has a very clear idea of his starting eleven.

Mitroglu bagged five goals from 10 starts and PAOK’s bearded striker Dimitrios Salpingidis netted four in nine. Giorgios Samaras also plays up front alongside these two but worryingly failed to find the back of the net in ten qualifying matches.

So Santos plays a tough 4-3-3 with midfielders Ioannis Maniatis, captain Katsouranis and Alexandros Tziolis doing all the hump work in midfield.

Santos dedicated the qualification to the Greek people suggesting it was a glimmer of hope in tough economic times.

Greece remains a minnow on the world stage and a reasonable target would be to qualify for the second round, although something similar was said about them in 2004.

AFP

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