Third-place finishers in UEFA Champions League Group B, Olympiacos FC are now turning their attention to the UEFA Europa League round of 32. In this exclusive interview with UEFA.com, captain Vassilis Torossidis gives his verdict on the Piraeus club's display in the group stage, explains his hopes for the 20 December draw and pays tribute to the club's "exceptional" supporters.
UEFA.com: How would you assess Olympiacos' performance in the UEFA Champions League group stage?
Vassilis Torossidis: During the first match [a 2-1 home loss to FC Schalke 04], like last season, we didn't manage to achieve the result we wanted. We didn't win, but the most positive thing for us was that we weren't broken by that defeat, nor by the defeat by Arsenal. We then managed to win two matches [against Montpellier Hérault SC] and at least we have third place. We tried to qualify for the last 16 against Schalke, but unfortunately we didn't manage to do it.
UEFA.com: After the victories against Montpellier, Leonardo Jardim said he was satisfied with the progress being made by the players. How can these advances help you in the UEFA Europa League?
Torossidis: Wins in a tournament such as this can help to develop players' personality, mood and confidence. What is important for the team is that the players did their best during the matches and managed to beat Montpellier.
The fact that we did our best against very good teams such as Schalke and Arsenal, while playing away from home, proves that Olympiacos are on a good level and that we try to compete in every match on an equal footing. This could be quite helpful in the Europa League.
The teams participating in the Europa League are not as good as the ones in the Champions League, of course, but there are teams in the Europa League who should be playing in the Champions League. I hope we don't play one of them in our first tie in order that we can achieve something positive, like we did last year [when Olympiacos reached the round of 16].
UEFA.com: Is it important for Greek football that Olympiacos perform well in the UEFA Europa League?
Torossidis: Of course, it's important for any Greek team – whether it's Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, PAOK or Tripolis – to earn points, first of all for the benefit of Greek football. When any of our teams wins a match, Greece is also a winner.
UEFA.com: Who would you like to face in the UEFA Europa League round of 32?
Torossidis: My only preference is not to play one of the so called better teams, at least not first up – one that might have deserved to continue in the Champions League.
UEFA.com: How important is it for you to play in a full stadium, especially given the economic situation in Greece and the fact that it is not easy for supporters to attend games?
Torossidis: Exactly, that's what I was going to say. The fact that our fans come and fill the Karaiskakis Stadium is, of course, important, especially in matches against European teams. That they help us and fill the stadium despite the economic crisis and the problems people face in Greece, is exceptional.
In Schalke I saw about 5,000 Greeks who might have deprived themselves or their families of something in order to come and see Olympiacos. Of course, we thank them, since things in Greece are very difficult and the fans, who have many difficulties to face, sometimes put those problems aside and try to find the money in order to come and watch the team.
It is very difficult to express in words this situation and what fans sacrifice in this difficult period. The only thing we can do, as a team, is to win matches in order to give them as much joy as we can. A win is our present to the fans for the things they do for us.
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