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Greeks plant seeds of doubt

Published: Friday 25 June 2004, 7.55CET
Tournament outsiders Greece will be looking to cause another upset when they face holders France in tonight's quarter-final at Lisbon's Estádio José Alvalade.
by Adam Szreter
from Lisbon

Tournament statistics

FranceGreece

Goals scored7
 
7
Total attempts54
 
47
Attempts on target24
 
21
Attempts off target28
 
21
Attempts blocked0
 
0
Attempts against woodwork0
 
0
Corners24
 
21
Offsides9
 
19
Yellow cards7
 
18
Red Cards0
 
0
Fouls committed71
 
108
Fouls suffered72
 
123
 
Published: Friday 25 June 2004, 7.55CET

Greeks plant seeds of doubt

Tournament outsiders Greece will be looking to cause another upset when they face holders France in tonight's quarter-final at Lisbon's Estádio José Alvalade.

If the eight quarter-finalists had been subject to Wimbledon-style seedings, the meeting of France and Greece at the Estádio José Alvalade on Friday evening would be first seeds versus eighth, the defending champions and favourites against the rank outsiders.

Experts incorrect
But Greece, enjoying the adventure of their footballing lives, have been here before: just under two weeks ago, in fact, when they faced the hosts, Portugal, in the opening game of the tournament and were given very little chance by most experts. On that occasion of course they not only won, but won well. So what price a first-ever win for Greece against France and the adventure continuing into next week?

Confidence eroded
Much will depend on the discipline and organisation that coach Otto Rehhagel has injected into the team, as well as how well Greece have recovered from the shock of nearly blowing their golden opportunity against Russia in their final group game. Some of the confidence built up during good performances against Portugal and Spain may have been eroded.

Nikolaidis doubts
Rehhagel is expected to revert to a 4-4-2 formation, after the experiment of playing with three strikers against Russia backfired. As usual, doubts surround the participation of star striker Themistoklis Nikolaidis, yet to start a finals match after recent injury and yet to fully convince as a substitute.

Karagounis poised
With fellow forward Zisis Vryzas suspended, Angelos Charisteas will be joined in attack by Nikolaidis or Dimitrios Papadopoulos. Georgios Karagounis is set to return to midfield following his suspension, although AEK Athens FC's Vassilios Lakis is also a contender for the right-sided midfield slot and Stylianos Giannakopoulos is still recovering from a calf injury.

'Extraordinary skills'
"We will go on enjoying ourselves, happy to be playing our best, but we will play so that all of Greece can say that we fought like heroes," Rehhagel said on Thursday. "The French are amazing players, with extraordinary skills and for us it will definitely be a challenge."

Unbeaten run
As if the task of facing Zinedine Zidane and company were not daunting enough for Greece, the holders go into the game on the back of a 16-match unbeaten run in competitive football; yet the feeling persists that they have still not hit top gear, and their coach Jacques Santini knows that important questions have to be answered.

Sagnol sidelined
One of those – a lack of goals for Thierry Henry – was answered in the affirmative in their last group outing against Switzerland, but injury in that match to defender Willy Sagnol disrupted any plans the coach might have had of naming an unchanged team.

Vieira struggling
Better news for Santini is that William Gallas, also injured against Switzerland, seems to have recovered, although the big worry for France now is Patrick Vieira, who is struggling with a leg muscle injury. Olivier Dacourt, who could meet his AS Roma team-mate Traianos Dellas, stands by to replace Vieira.

Greece (possible): Nikopolidis; Seitaridis, Kapsis, Dellas, Fyssas/Venetidis; Katsouranis; Karagounis/Lakis, Zagorakis, Tsiartas; Charisteas, Nikolaidis/Papadopoulos.

France (probable): Barthez; Gallas, Thuram, Silvestre, Lizarazu; Makelele, Dacourt/Vieira, Pires; Zidane; Henry, Trezeguet.

Referee: Anders Frisk (Swe).

Last updated: 25/06/04 20.55CET

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