After their spectacular success at the 2004 FIFA World Cup, expectation for this year’s team is certainly high among their fans, although they may be underestimated by others who might be in danger of overlooking them once again. Although the combination of talent, determination and favorable matchups may not be in Greece’s favor like it was in 2004, this team is still one to be reckoned with as it advances into the 2014 World Cup.
Who are the 2014 Greece FIFA Team?
The team itself has been around for many decades, but didn’t really make a dent into the World Cup scene until 1994. Wearing the sky-blue and white colors of their nation, the Greeks are known in their media as “Ethniki” which translates into “National”. However, an unofficial nickname refers to the Greek team as “Pirates” which came about after Georgios Helakis, a Greek sports radio journalist commented on the Portuguese use of their 16th century ships as their symbol, that the Greeks would be the pirates to their fleet. The subsequent success lead to the unofficial name of Piratiko or The Pirate Ship as the new nickname which is now repeated after every victory.
How Greece Qualified for the World Cup?
The Greek team managed to perform quite well during the qualifying rounds, putting up a total of 25 points from the 10 games that they played. The 25 points would have made them winners in five of the eight groups that participated, but in their group they had to participate in a playoff after losing to Bosnia-Herzegovina on goal difference.
However, the Greeks were not steamrollers in the qualifying rounds having won five of their eight games by mere 1 – 0 victories. The winner of their group managed a scoreless draw with Greece and then defeat them 3 – 1 at Zenica.
In the playoffs, the Greeks under Fernando Santos managed to beat the Romanians who had tied them during the regular qualifying rounds 3 – 1 at home and then managed a 1 – 1 draw in Bucharest which was more than enough to see them into the Word Cup play. In fact, three of the four goals in the playoffs were made by their leading striker Konstantinos Mitroglou who is the most dangerous scorer on the current Greek team.
The Greeks are certainly a strong team and one that can compete on relatively even terms with most of the teams at the Cup.
The History of the Greek Team in the FIFA World Cup
Save for the 2004 World Cup, the overall history of the Greeks has been rather modest to say the least. In 1994, the Greek team went home with no points and worse, no goals from their efforts in the United States after losing to Argentina, Bulgaria and Nigeria respectively. In the previous World Cup in South Africa, the Greeks managed to beat Nigeria 2 – 1, but were handed two consecutive defeats by the Korean Republic and Argentina which meant that they left for home after the initial group rounds.
Of course, their 2004 World Cup Championship in Portugal stands as their triumphant moment when the world was shocked at this rather modest team which was given little chance to succeed. In fact, the booking odds ranged from 80 to 1 up to 150 to 1 that they would become champions. The Greeks managed to make it past the initial qualifying round and stun the defending champs France before meeting Portugal in the finals and beating them as well.
The Current Team
The team is currently coached by the renowned Fernando Santos who hails from Portugal as he took over the team from Otto Rehhagel who had guided the Greeks in the last World Cup endeavor in 2010 after a nine-year run. Santos managed to get the Greek team into the quarter finals of EURO 2012 where they lost to Germany, but put in a very respectable showing. His handling of the team through the 2014 World Cup qualifiers was certainly impressive.
The key players on the team are built around a philosophy of attack and creating scoring opportunities. The Captain Giorgos Karagounis is still the most dominant player on the Greek team and as a seasoned midfielder commands a real presence on the field. His play will be central to the success of the Greeks as they compete at the World Cup.
Forwards Dimitrios Salpingidis and Mitroglou will also play a powerful role in the Greeks chances of keeping up the pressure and creating scoring opportunities. The combination of these three players gives Coach Santos plenty of options to attack and score goals to keep their opponents off-balance. In addition to the forwards and midfielder, Santos can also rely upon the experience of players such as Giorgos Samara and Theofanis Gekas who will add stability and determination to the rest of the team.
Although built around attacking, their work at getting into the World Cup this year was really about the defense which only gave up four goals in ten matches. For the Greeks to continue to succeed, this emphasis on defense while taking advantage of scoring opportunities once again makes them a dark horse in the current World Cup tournament.
For the 2014 World Cup, the Greek are in the second slot of Group C which also consists of Colombia, the Ivory Coast and Japan, giving Greece an excellent chance to advance despite some good competition.
Overall, the chances of the Greeks to win the World Cup again may not be nearly as great as it was in 2004, but they are currently not considered one of the favorites although they have been playing well in the qualifying rounds. What can be stated is that if they do win, it will not be quite the same surprise and shock that the world experienced in 2004, but it will be regarded as the establishment of a real power in football for the rest of this decade. Thanks in large part to their head coach and determined, talented team.