WORLD CUP HISTORY: It might surprise you to learn that South Africa will only be Greece’s second World Cup appearance. In their debut in 1994, the Greeks were easily dispatched, going scoreless while conceding ten goals in their three matches. It’s been a long journey to return to the world stage, though their stunning win at Euro 2004 certainly proves they belong.
QUALIFICATION: An inconsistent qualifying campaign saw Greece emerge from their group behind Switzerland. In a throwback to Euro 2004, Otto Rehhagel’s charges ground out some vintage Greek football in their playoff against Ukraine to prevail 1-0 over both legs. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.
KEY PLAYER: Theofanis Gekas. If any nation at the World Cup understands the concept of team play, it’s Greece. Sacrifice for the good of the team is the religion, however without goals the team is going nowhere. That’s where Gekas comes into play. He has been sensational for his country, leading all of Europe with ten goals in qualifying. Though he has struggled at club level over recent seasons, he looks to be one of those players who saves his best for his country.
EXPECTATIONS: The thing about Greece is that there never is any expectation. They carried that mentality all the way to a European Cup in 2004, and will do the same this year in a very tricky Group B. Argentina, Nigeria and South Korea will provide the opposition, and on paper it will be a battle for second spot. Greece should consider themselves capable of taking that second spot.