Greece face Belgium in a friendly in Heraklion on Wednesday, with coach Fernando Santos eager to leave fans under no illusion about what they can expect from their side at UEFA EURO 2012.
The Portuguese tactician knows that, in the absence of star players, nous will be crucial for Greece in Poland and Ukraine, and he has taken the unusual step of announcing the criteria he will use to select his final 23 in three months' time. "Tactics first, technical ability second," he said.
"If we had a player like Lionel Messi, we would put him in the squad even if he was not so helpful tactically," added the 57-year-old. "But
Greece don't have a Messi, so it is tactics first and quality second, then team spirit, experience in high-profile matches and versatility."
That might suggest that Santos is – true to the spirit of the squad that won UEFA EURO 2004 under Otto Rehhagel – preparing to round up the usual suspects, yet the coach is not so conservative. Since taking over in summer 2010, he has picked 55 different players, giving debuts to 16 of them.
Samsunspor striker Fanis Gekas thinks that, having spread his net wide, Santos will have a "welcome headache" when it comes to making the final cut. "Having called up so many players in these 18 months, he has a large pool to choose from. That means he will have a tough time naming the final 23 in May."
Greece will take on hosts Poland, the Czech Republic and Russia in UEFA EURO 2012 Group A, with midweek opponents Belgium – who feature Olympiacos FC forward Kevin Mirallas – seen as useful sparring partners. "Belgium are a good side and their style resembles that of our rivals in June," explained Gekas.
Panathinaikos FC goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis is likely to receive his first cap at the Pankritio Stadium, and opportunity may also knock for Santos's latest newcomer, 19-year-old midfielder Kostas Fortounis, who has hit the ground running in his first season in Germany with 1. FC Kaiserslautern.
Giannis Maniatis, meanwhile, could have the chance to show his versatility. Because of an injury crisis, Olympiacos coach Ernesto Valverde converted the right-back into a holding midfielder, and such flexibility should tick a number of Santos’s selection criteria boxes.
The accent is still on experiment, as Gekas notes: "This is a match where the coach can spot our weaknesses and work out what to do before May when the final stage of our preparation begins."
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