Fernando Santos had some big shoes to fill when he was named as Otto Rehhagel's successor as Greece coach last summer. The 55-year-old Portuguese has plenty of experience of Greek football following spells at Panathinaikos FC, AEK Athens FC and PAOK FC. But even for a coach of his calibre, replacing the man who led Greece to their UEFA EURO 2004 triumph is quite a challenge.
UEFA.com: After so many years as a club coach what is it like to be in charge of a national side?
Santos: Very difficult. It's a completely different job. We're used to having the players every day, being able to improve and rectify; then you come to the national team and you only have two days to train and pass on new ideas. When you have the feeling you're starting to do something, the players go away again and you have to wait over a month before they return.
UEFA.com: You have worked at several Greek clubs. How does that help you in your current job?
Santos: In the six, seven years I worked with Greek teams most of the players who helped Greece win EURO 2004, 80%, played in my teams. So I have deep knowledge of the majority of Greek players. This was an important factor in my choice [of becoming Greece coach], the knowledge that the Greek players have about my personality, my way of being, my character, the way I think about football.
UEFA.com: What is it like to follow in the footsteps of a coach as successful as Otto Rehhagel?
Santos: It's an honour for me because Mr Rehhagel did a great job for Greek football. It had been a long time since Greece participated continuously and regularly in the final phases of competitions; apart from the huge success of winning EURO 2004 in Portugal. It's about the motivation, honour and responsibility.
UEFA.com: Can Greece repeat their success of 2004?
Santos: We are in a transitional phase. There is talent in Greece, young players who in the past couple of years have had an interesting path in either the Under-19 or Under-21 teams. Now we have to support them and bed them in alongside players who were involved in those previous campaigns, to build a team which can compete at the highest level. To become European champions again many things have to come together.
UEFA.com: Is the 2004 victory a weight on the shoulders of the current generation or does it provide added motivation?
Santos: I think that win was very important because it made it possible for many Greek players to go abroad. Nowadays they can bring back to the national team a new way of looking at football, a new philosophy, and I think that's very important. Now we have to put all that together.
UEFA.com: After draws in your first two UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers, how do you rate your chances of reaching the finals?
Santos: The results have been less than we expected. Maybe that's a bit down to me looking to change the philosophy too fast. [Against Georgia] the team conceded a very early goal, which hit us psychologically and we were unable to turn the match around despite having chances. The draw in Croatia was different, because Croatia are the group favourites. A draw stopped Croatia pulling away from us so everything is still open.
UEFA.com: You have a degree in engineering. What are the similarities with football?
Santos: Only in 1998, when I went to coach FC Porto, did I stop having two professions. Until then I was always an engineer and a coach at the same time. Many things compliment the other, particularly in terms of organisation.
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