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Santos demands Greek focus for Russia duel

Published: Friday 15 June 2012, 21.00CET
Fernando Santos wants to see his Greece team switched on from the start against Group A leaders Russia, whose coach Dick Advocaat has a decision to make about Aleksandr Kerzakhov.
by Simon Hart
from National Stadium Warsaw
Santos demands Greek focus for Russia duel
Fernando Santos hopes Greece can get into their stride early against Russia ©Getty Images

Tournament statistics


Goals scored5
Total attempts28
Attempts on target14
Attempts off target14
Attempts blocked5
Attempts against woodwork1
Yellow cards11
Red Cards1
Fouls committed48
Fouls suffered64

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Published: Friday 15 June 2012, 21.00CET

Santos demands Greek focus for Russia duel

Fernando Santos wants to see his Greece team switched on from the start against Group A leaders Russia, whose coach Dick Advocaat has a decision to make about Aleksandr Kerzakhov.

After the thunderstorm in Donetsk, Greece's footballers will be hoping lightning of a different kind does not strike them again in Warsaw. When it comes to facing Russia on the EURO stage, they have already been struck twice, with defeats in the group stage in 2004 and 2008, and a third reverse would end their involvement here at UEFA EURO 2012.

Bottom of Group A, Greece need a victory against a Russia side unbeaten in 16 matches and requiring only a draw to guarantee progress. The Greece coach, Fernando Santos, describes the match as "a final" and is hopeful that the high stakes will stir his side into life from the very start – something that has been their undoing to date in Poland.

They started poorly against Poland, conceding after 17 minutes, then were two goals behind inside six minutes against the Czech Republic. Even when they drew 1-1 with Russia in Piraeus last November, Roman Shirokov's goal came in the second minute. "If we get into the match early, or better yet, straight from the referee's whistle – if we go into it focused and don't make those mistakes – then I think our team has a chance of achieving what we want," Santos told in the lead-up to the match.

Russia, on the evidence of Tuesday's draw with Poland, have the opposite problem. Leading 1-0, they lost their way in the second period, missing the chance to secure a quarter-final spot with a game to spare. Since then they have lost Aleksandr Korokin to injury and Konstantin Zyryanov's absence from training today – he "was sick", according to Dick Advocaat – raised the possibility of Igor Semshov stepping into midfield.

Yet the big question facing Advocaat is whether or not to keep faith with striker Aleksandr Kerzakhov, who has posted a tournament-high ten shots off target, or bring in Roman Pavlyuchenko. Advocaat defended Kerzakhov when he said: "He can score out of nothing, even though he may not play that well. He is player who can score goals; he has done that all his career and that's not going to change, but at this moment in time he's not that happy about it."

Kerzahkov is part of the FC Zenit St Petersburg contingent who, for Greece coach Santos, bring a dangerous level of cohesion to Russia's attacking play. He spoke of their "automatic understanding" and added: "They combine very well, especially in attack. Whenever there is space [...] they are very quick to utilise it." To remedy this, Greece cannot afford to make the errors seen so far; they must be bold and disciplined instead. "We have to apply pressure when marking our opponents, be aggressive, and not give them the space to move around, with or without the ball," said Santos.

Santos will have Sokratis Papastathopoulos back after suspension to bolster his defence and may introduce Giorgos Tzavellas at left-back in place of José Holebas. Of course, just stopping Russia will not be enough. "When we have possession we have to be confident enough to create chances," the coach added.

Greece have not won a match at the EURO since their 2004 final triumph over Portugal. Santos cited last October's qualifying win over Croatia as reason to believe his team can deliver when it matters. But neither history, nor current form, is on their side.

Last updated: 15/06/12 21.12CET