Greece are faced with the prospect of going into Friday's UEFA EURO 2004™ quarter-final against France without key midfield player Stylianos Giannakopoulos because of a nagging calf injury.
Far from certain
Giannakopoulos, who missed Sunday's 2-1 defeat by Russia, trained by himself today and his return to full training tomorrow is far from certain. "The team doctor said he will try to return to full training tomorrow," said Greece's media officer Mihalis Tsapidis. Central defender Traianos Dellas also trained apart but is expected to be ready in time. "He is being rested, it is nothing serious," Tsapidis added.
Coach Otto Rehhagel will also be without Zisis Vryzas, who collected his second yellow card of the tournament against Russia on Sunday, but he can at least welcome back playmaker Georgios Karagounis who has served a one-match ban.
As Greece gear up for the clash at the Estádio José Alvalade, midfield player Vassilios Tsiartas is perfectly aware of the task at hand. "It would be a lie to say that we are not the outsiders. But each team came here with its own probabilities.
'No huge differences'
"We are in the last eight and we have to make the most of our chance," he said. "If you think before a match begins that you are going to lose, then you have no hope of achieving anything. Don't forget that there aren't huge differences between teams any more."
'You can only learn'
That said, Tsiartas added that playing against France, and Zinedine Zidane in particular, can only be a plus. "You can only learn playing against Zidane. I am very pleased that we're playing against such a quality team."
Greece will receive a boost from an estimated 5,000 travelling fans, who since Sunday have flooded Greek travel agents with requests for weekend packages to Portugal. Whatever the result on Friday, the players insist that getting so far in the tournament is a huge achievement. This has been recognised by the Hellenic Football Federation, which yesterday announced it has increased the bonus it promised to the players for reaching the quarter-finals from €2m to €2.3m.
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