WORLD CUP FORECAST: Group C – Any danger of a Euro2004 repeat for Greece?

Greece returned to the World Cup scene four years ago in South Africa following a three-tournament absence between 1998 and 2006.
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Greece returned to the World Cup scene four years ago in South Africa following a three-tournament absence between 1998 and 2006.

The performance of the Ethniki in 2010 was mixed with losses to South Korea and Argentina, and a win over Nigeria, condemning them to a group stage exit.

When pondering their fate in Brazil, it appears as though the Greeks will find their group stage opponents just as difficult.

Colombia are one of the in-form teams from South America while Japan and the Ivory Coast are extremely dangerous.

Fernando Santos has Greece playing their customary defensive style which was evidenced by them conceding just four goals in 10 qualifying matches to finish level on points with Bosnia & Herzegovina before successfully navigating Romania in a playoff.

The scene is set for Greece to harness the spirit of the 2004 team which shocked Europe to take out the regional title in Portugal but can they grasp the opportunity with both hands in Brazil?

Manager: Fernando Santos

Fixtures: Colombia - June 14 (Belo Horizonte), Japan - June 19 (Natal), Cote d’Ivoire - June 24 (Fortaleza)

Past outings against group opponents: Greece’s opening fixture against Colombia shall be the second meeting between the two following a 2-0 friendly win to the South Americans in 1994.

The Greeks have met Japan once before which resulted in a 1-0 loss in the Confederations Cup in 2005.

Greece have never met the Ivory Coast at senior international level.

Key players: Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham), Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund), Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK)

World Cup utopia: Knockout stage progression would be an amazing result.

Doomsday scenario: Coming away from Brazil with points at all.

Qualified by virtue of: UEFA play-off vs Romania (4-2 aggregate)

Best result at a World Cup: Group stage (1994, 2010)

tribal’s forecast:

Despite their wealth of experience all over the park, Greece find themselves drawn against three teams packed with world-class performers in every line which is something that the Greeks themselves lack.

If they can get a win on the board early they will blow the group wide open but they will certainly have to perform to the peak of their powers in all three fixtures to progress.

As mentioned earlier, Greece conceded less than a handful of goals in qualifying, which is a monumental task, but managed to score just 12 at the other end in a group consisting of Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Liechtenstein.

That lack of creativity and flair in the final third could be a problem against the vibrancy and verve of the Colombians, the Japanese and Ivorians which leads us to believe that perhaps the Greeks will have their work cut out for them in Brazil.

The fact that key striker Mitroglou has played less than three hours of club football since the end of January is cause for concern as he is their main avenue to goal while Karagounis, Salpingidis and Theofanis Gekas are the wrong side of 30.

The defence is strong with the likes of Borussia Dortmund ace Papastathopoulos, Olympiakos trio Avraam Papadopoulos, Jose Holebas and Giannis Maniatis and Roma’s Vasilis Torosidis at the forefront but it is in the attacking third where Greece will need to step up if they are any chance of lifting their nation as Otto Rehhagel’s side did a decade ago.

Prediction: Group stage elimination.

 
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