His four goals in Greece's 5-2 win against Latvia moved Fanis Gekas alongside Wayne Rooney as joint top scorer in European FIFA World Cup qualifying, but the striker said afterwards that "I could have done better".
The 29-year-old helped Greece maintain their hopes of reaching South Africa as Group 2 winners after defeating opponents who went into Saturday's game level on points with their hosts. "It was a good match for me, but what matters most is not my performance," said the Bayer 04 Leverkusen marksman after the encounter in Athens. "I don't care about goals and records as long as the team wins."
Latvia had good reason to fear Gekas, who had scored twice for Greece in a 2-0 win in Riga 13 months earlier, but they proved powerless to stop him despite ending the first half 2-1 up. "In the dressing room at half-time, we tried to encourage one another and we vowed to do everything in our power to turn the game around and get a play-off spot for the 2010 World Cup," said Gekas, whose side will be sure of at least finishing second in their section if they beat Luxembourg on Wednesday and will qualify automatically if Switzerland also lose against Israel.
The Larissa native's goals in Athens were a welcome lift during a season in which he has only appeared sporadically for his club. Thus far, he has contested merely four Bundesliga matches – three as a substitute – and two more in the German Cup, coming off to bench to fire his only domestic goal of the season against 1. FC Kaiserslautern. "It's very complicated for me and bad for my morale to be on the bench all the time at Leverkusen," he said. "Not playing regular club football makes me give my all for the national team."
The striker continues to be grateful to coach Otto Rehhagel for keeping faith in him despite his club situation, but that decision has been more than vindicated. Gekas has scored 13 of Greece's 22 goals since UEFA EURO 2008™, and with 19 goals in 42 international games is closing in on Nikos Anastopoulos's national record of 29. His nine Group 2 efforts, meanwhile, mean he is level with Wayne Rooney as joint top scorer in European qualifying for South Africa, and since the Manchester United FC striker will miss England's final qualifier against Belarus through injury, Gekas can make the title his own when Luxembourg come calling in midweek.
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