Angelos Charisteas, scorer of the winning goal in the 2004 final as Greece claimed their first UEFA European Championship crown, told UEFA.com that he is "proud and excited" to be recalled to the squad for the first time since the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The 31-year-old Panaitolikos GFS forward has scored 24 goals in 85 games for his country and is hoping his experience can make a difference when Greece host Croatia in a crucial clash at the UEFA EURO 2012 Group F summit on Friday. Fernando Manuel Santos's side have yet to taste defeat in qualifying but must win in Piraeus to have their destiny in their own hands going into their final game against Georgia on 11 October.
UEFA.com: You are back in the squad for the first time since the 2010 FIFA World Cup. How does it feel?
Angelos Charisteas: I am so happy to be back. I consider it a reward for my efforts this season and I am really proud and excited that I am able to help out ahead of such decisive encounters. Everything has been going smoothly with coach Fernando Manuel Santos so far and I am sure we will work well together.
UEFA.com: Having watched Greece play under Fernando Santos, how do they differ from when you were last with the national team?
Charisteas: The team are undefeated under Santos and the defensive performances have been top quality. Santos is always on the lookout for players who are doing well in their leagues and is not afraid to change the squad around and give youngsters, or players like me, a chance to contribute. He watches players at their clubs, follows their progress and, if he thinks they are in form, calls them up. That is very important for player morale and a major change from the past.
UEFA.com: How will the team approach the decisive match against Croatia?
Charisteas: I have played in crucial games for the national team before. The play-off against Ukraine two years ago where we sealed qualification for the 2010 World Cup, the away victory against Turkey in 2007 which got us to the EURO 2008 finals and the matches at EURO 2004. There is a special way to handle these games. We need to be patient, not rush things or get anxious about scoring an early goal and be extra careful not to concede.
UEFA.com: What is your opinion of Croatia?
Charisteas: They will be very tough opponents because they have great technique and are strong physically. However, we are very good at home and have proved in the past that we have the personality and mental strength to perform well under pressure.
UEFA.com: You have returned to Greece for the first time in ten years, signing for Panetolikos. Greece is going through hard times …
Charisteas: I can't begin to describe the shock I felt when I first saw the situation up close. Having been away for ten years, I can see that people's faces look different. You can see anxiety about the future in their eyes. I do not know how the situation will turn around, but I hope it does because the morale of the nation is really low. I hope that on Friday we will put a smile on people's faces by defeating Croatia and getting closer to UEFA EURO 2012. It is important, even for one night, for us to make Greeks forget their worries; football has that power. That would be great for them and very rewarding for us.
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