Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Euro 2008: No Defense for Greece Title Defense

Chuckles abound today reading quotes from Greece players and coach Otto Rehhagel, the man who led the Greeks to the '04 Euro championship, regarding his team's performance during a 2-0 disaster loss to Sweden. The Greeks, five defenders across per Rehhagel, were flat, boring and losers and figure to gain an early exit from Euro 2008 with games against Spain and Russia remaining on their fixture list.
"We do want to score goals as well but the truth is we don't score many. So we must secure the back first and then see whether we can score a goal on the break," Rehhagel told Reuters.
Abominal thinking from a stubborn man.

Greece was an inspired 2004 champion, playing largely the same style it played yesterday. It's anti-football strategy paid off in a Euro title four years ago. One need only look at the final against Portugal to see how much the Greeks stacked their half of the field and dared the Portuguese to attack--which they did relentlessly to no avail. Goals came from set pieces and attacks counter to the run of play.

Well, apparently, the rest of Europe has caught up to Rehhagel's style. Sweden dominated yesterday, winning on second-half goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Petter Hansson, and Greece stood back and took it. Post-game, to a man, the Greeks are now calling for a change in style and attitude. Desperate times indeed. No time like a major tournament to do an about-face strategically.
"We were playing scared. When you're always playing the ball backwards, you can't win a match. We have to press forward. Attack is the best defence. We need to play forward. We've got to raise our game a notch in the days ahead," striker Yannis Amanatidis told Reuters.
All of this is disappointing to Greek fans, who understood their team had a chance to get out of the group and reach the quarterfinals. With Spain a sure lock to make it, and Russia below form, it was imperative the Greeks at a minimum, draw with Sweden yesterday. Not quite. Now Greece will have to beat down Russia and pray for a miracle against Spain.

We're a long way for 2004 Portugal. Ironically, the conquered Portuguese, who play in less than an hour against the Czech Republic, look fit to win the tournament.

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