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Greece add attacking credentials to defensive base

Published: Tuesday 1 July 2014, 10.00CET
Two years ago, Germany coach Joachim Löw labelled Greece "the masters of survival"; Vassiliki Papantonopoulou says that sobriquet earned more credence in Brazil.
by Vassiliki Papantonopoulou
from Recife

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Published: Tuesday 1 July 2014, 10.00CET

Greece add attacking credentials to defensive base

Two years ago, Germany coach Joachim Löw labelled Greece "the masters of survival"; Vassiliki Papantonopoulou says that sobriquet earned more credence in Brazil.

Were expectations met?
Ahead of Greece's third FIFA World Cup there was one aim: to reach the knockout stages for the first time. Mission accomplished then, with their customary flair for the dramatic, since Fernando Santos' side were heading out until the final minute of their last group match against Ivory Coast. They were denied a quarter-final berth by Costa Rica only after the first penalty-shoot out in Greece's 550-match history. So Santos and skipper Giorgos Karagounis bow out but Claudio Ranieri – who will be unveiled any day now – has plenty to work with.

Group C: Greece 0-3 Colombia
Group C: Greece 0-0 Japan
Group C: Greece 2-1 Ivory Coast
Round of 16: Greece 1-1 Costa Rica (lost 5-3 on pens)

What the media say
GoalNews: You fell like Greek heroes. You made us cry, you fascinated us, you lifted us and we thank you. Now we love you even more!

LiveSport: Greece bumped into superhuman Keylor Navas and lost 5-3 in the penalty shoot-out to Costa Rica, but in our hearts you are all winners!

What they say
Fernando Santos: "I will always remember those four years at the helm of Greece, all the important achievements with the guys, but today I don't want to talk about it. It's a day of grief. I really believed, like my players, that we could eliminate Costa Rica and reach the World Cup quarter-finals. We wanted that trip to Salvador. But in extra time we didn't take our chances."

Giorgos Karagounis: "Our national team came of age at this tournament. The younger guys earned valuable experience this past month and that will become evident in upcoming tournaments – I am confident they can keep improving. I hope there will be many more campaigns like this one."

Positives
Greece once again displayed that unique fighting spirit. Despite suffering a 3-0 opening loss to Colombia, they regrouped and got their campaign back on track. They relied on their trademark passion and die-hard attitude (holding out against Japan with ten men for 52 minutes), and exhibited a refreshing, new-found attacking mentality. They secured a last-16 place deep into stoppage time against Ivory Coast and then forced extra time against Costa Rica with a 91st-minute Sokratis Papastathopoulos leveller.

©Getty Images

Samaras sends Greece into last 16

Room for improvement
Defensively sound, Greece were more adventurous than ever in attack and created plenty of opportunities to finish off their matches. They were left to rue finishing percentage, though. In four outings they managed 30 attempts on target but scored just three goals and hit the woodwork four times. Their play-off hero, Kostas Mitroglou, was not at his best, lacking rhythm after a lengthy injury absence.

Emerging talent
In recent years Greece have been founded on a solid partnership at the heart of their defence. Pre-tournament injuries to Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Dimitris Siovas meant a late call for Kostas Manolas to drop into the back four to complement Papastathopoulos. The duo went from less to more as the competition unfolded and 23-year-old Manolas has been one of the tournament's best central defenders, confirming what his eye-catching UEFA Champions League performances for Olympiacos FC had suggested.

European Qualifiers
Greece kick off UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group F at home to Romania on 7 September. In an apparently straightforward section that also features Hungary, Finland, Northern Ireland and the Faroe Islands, Ranieri should be eased into national-team coaching and will aim to guide the UEFA EURO 2004 champions to their fourth consecutive UEFA European Championship.

Last updated: 01/07/14 12.45CET

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