The reasons behind our coach’s decisions on our game against the Koreans last Friday, have been a rather interesting topic. It’s quite bold, to present a starting eleven that has never been tested in any friendly match or even worse, at any practice session. Let’s try and understand him.
Ever since we won the European cup, Greece climbed up FIFA’s world rankings. That gave us the potential to be drawn out of the strongest group for the qualifying matches of any major tournament and play against weaker sides. We failed to qualify in the world cup 2006 but managed to do so, in the Euro 2008 and the world cup 2010. A qualify meant that we kept our status as one of the the top 20 teams in the world (according to the ranking). However, whenever we had to play against powerful countries (like Sweden and Spain in the Euro 08′) we didn’t stand a chance. Not because we didn’t have a good team, but because our game was predictable. We used the same strategy as in 2004. Defending our territory and threatening their goal mainly with free kicks or corner kicks. So, the reason we flew to South Africa, was because we were lucky enough to play against Israel, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Moldavia and Latvia and not because we have the 13th top team in the world.
Half of us have been accusing the German of selecting a defensive team whose main purpose is to destroy the art of football. The other half, just accepted the fact that we don’t have Brazilian players on our team and that’s the best we can do. On Friday, Otto chose to please the first group of Greeks and relied on the same formation he used on both friendly games against North Korea and Paraguay, an attacking style of 4-3-3. This system is translated as modern football. The truth is, that Greece finally decided to put the ball down and make us proud of the way they moved the ball around. Unfortunately, they managed to do neither. We conceded a goal in the first minutes because of a poor clearance and then we dropped the guns, after a tremendous mistake in the back in the early 2nd half.
When you’re two goals down in a World Cup opening match and already in the 2nd half, usually you think of how to win the remaining 2 group stage games. However, the German did try to fix this monstrosity by taking out two of our worst players so far, Giorgios Samaras and Angelos Charisteas, for the faster and harder-working Dimitrios Salpingidis and Pantelis Kapetanos. He also substituted Giorgos Karagounis for Christos Patsatzoglou hoping for the latter to cover the space our right back, Giogrios Seitaridis was creating. The 29 y/o defender comes from a bad season with Panathinaikos, however Rehhagel trusted him, since he is our most accurate long pass crosser. And the way Greece looked in the first half, the only way to score, would be from Seitaridis heading up front, making a cross and a striker shifting the ball in the net.
At the end of the day, nothing worked out. But there was logic behind Rehhagel’s choices. After all, he has been a coach for the past 30 years of his life. He knows one or two things more than us. Do we agree with his thoughts? That’s a different question. Especially when you have the likes of Liverpool’s Sotiris Kyrgiakos and our most skillful player, Sotirios Ninis, on the bench.
This game has ended, but it’s time to erase any bad thoughts and look forward to what we can make out of our games against Nigeria and Argentina. Good luck!