Greece has the oldest athletic tradition in the Western world. To win the Cup in 2010, however, their national team—in the words of their coach, Otto Rehhagel—will “need to have the Gods on [their] side.”
Team: To Piratiko
Colors: White and blue
Formation: 4-3-2-1 or 4-4-2
Greece made it through the qualifying stage and into the World Cup for the second time ever. Although their first visit (in ’94) ended quickly, the 2004 European champions have a deeper and more experienced team this year.
For To Piratiko, the name of the game is defense. Greece’s team defense is one of the most stubborn in the tourney, and it will be difficult to score on them. They will try to hold their ground and wait to counterattack when their opponents’ defense is caught too far up.
Key Players: Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Georgios Karagounis and Theofanis Gekas
Kyrgiakos is the heart of the defense, and his strength can match all comers. He’s great in the air, snipping headers away from opponents, and he will shoulder the burden of shutting down top attackers.
Karagounis, the captain and soul of To Piratiko, isn’t afraid to drop back and play. He’s also the key to opening up the counterattack with his passing skills—the team’s primary offensive weapon.
The top scorer in the European Zone qualifying, Gekas is the fist that will strike at opponents. Look for him to sit along defenders until he can capitalize on their mistakes. His efforts inside the box can be herculean.
Key Matchup: Greece vs. Nigeria
This should be a defensive battle. Don’t anticipate many goals, but expect a lot of hard-hitting tackles and fouls. Physical strength will be important for both teams, but watch for little flairs from the Greek forwards to sneak by Nigeria’s defenders.
Prediction: Though defense can win championships, the Greeks don’t have enough offense to score goals and walk away with three points against opponents. But they should play to a better outcome than in ’94, when they practically invited 10 goals in three games.
Related link: World Cup 2010 Countdown