The new names in the Greece squad for this month's friendlies against Russia and Romania suggest that coach Fernando Santos has exciting options as he starts to prepare for UEFA EURO 2012.
While the continent focuses on the four qualifying play-off fixtures, Group F winners Greece take on Russia and Romania on 11 and 15 November with two newcomers in their squad – Panathinaikos FC's 17-year-old goalkeeper Stefanos Kapino and Olympiacos FC left-back José Holebas, who is eager to impress for his father's home country after being granted Greek citizenship.
Kapino, the youngest player to receive a call-up and potentially Greece's youngest ever debutant, has grown up fast in every respect. Already 1.96m tall, the Under-17 and U19 international was thrust into the limelight when making his Panathinaikos bow on 17 September, three minutes into a Super League game at Atromitos FC following the dismissal of Orestis Karnezis, usual understudy to injured first choice Stefanos Kotsolis.
Fernando Santos said: "I have seen him play two or three times and I liked what I saw. I want to get to know him and it will be good for him to get a chance to mix with the senior team and gain experience." The teenager himself said of his fast-tracking this season: "I just have to keep working and take things one step at a time. I'm not in a hurry."
At 27, Holebas may see senior action sooner than his fellow new boy. The German-born defender, whom Olympiacos brought to Piraeus from TSV 1860 München in 2010, received his Greek passport on Thursday, having said: "If Mr Santos believes I can contribute to the squad I will welcome the opportunity." The Portuguese coach has responded with his selection. "Holebas said he would welcome a chance to play for Greece and now he can. I would like to give him a game so we can see what he can bring to our squad."
A recall for forward Kostas Mitroglou and the choice of left-back Kostas Giannoulis also reflect new developments in Greece, with both players representing Atromitos, who top the Super League after staying unbeaten for their first eight games. Last season's Greek Cup runners-up have never finished higher than seventh.
Mitroglou – on loan from Olympiacos – and Giannoulis have been two shining lights for the team from the Athens suburb of Peristeri, whose coach Giorgios Donis said: "We are becoming a good team. Not because we are unbeaten or because we have won a few games, but because we know how to react when we go behind or score first. That is the sign of maturity and self-confidence."
Fernando Santos would doubtless like to see his side show similar composure in Poland and Ukraine next summer. "As we look ahead to the EURO, we are entering a new phase," explained the 57-year-old, who replaced Otto Rehhagel in summer 2010. "It's time to try things and check out the players at our disposal."
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.