Greece coach Claudio Ranieri speaks to UEFA.com about his squad's Group F encounter with Finland, the opening loss to Romania and taking things "step by step".
Article top media content
Having started his tenure as Greece coach with a 1-0 home loss to Romania, Claudio Ranieri will hope for better when his side take on Finland in Helsinki on Saturday in their second UEFA EURO 2016 Group F qualifier. In this exclusive interview with UEFA.com, the well-travelled Italian, appointed by the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) in July, talks about those games, what his squad need to improve and how he is finding the transition to international management.
UEFA.com: How are you finding life as a national team coach and how does it differ from working at club level?
Claudio Ranieri: Everything is different because you meet the players three or four days before a match, they've played a couple of days previously and, first of all, they need to recover. The real working hours are very limited, so it's important to only give them a few ideas and work them out well. You just don't have the time to work and train a lot.
It's actually pretty dramatic if, for example, there were some mistakes in your last match. If you are a club coach you might analyse the game after two days and try to work on improving things, but if you are a national coach you don't see your players until a month later. You have to start again from scratch and only work on the mistakes made in the last match while also working on new things and preparations for the upcoming game. In a few days you have to mix it all together.
UEFA.com: A new coach brings new ideas. What changes will we see you implement?
Ranieri: You always need to take changes step by step because you just don't have enough time with the players, only those few days, so you have to consider the players at your disposal and make them perform to the best of their ability. You can have a thousand ideas, but if your players can't transfer them onto the pitch you're not doing a good job. So my first task is to find players who are physically fit and who understand how to put my ideas into practice.
UEFA.com: Greece are known for not conceding many goals, but they also do not score many. How will you try to improve that?
Ranieri: The team previously played with just one forward, in a 4-3-3 system, so my first step is to start with two strikers. You can have a thousand ideas, but if you don't have a forward who can score ... A forward should have it in his blood, in his intuition, and have the qualities to be clinical in the box. If you don't have a player like that, you don't have many options. It's important to look for players like that and see if they fit the system we play.
UEFA.com: Greece started with a 1-0 defeat by Romania. How would you rate the display?
Ranieri: The performance was negative in terms of the result, but on the other hand it was also rather positive because I knew before the match that the team was still not prepared well enough. Many of the players hadn't even played a friendly; some had done just ten days' training. The Greek league had started a week earlier, but the Romanian league was on its sixth matchday and they had players who had featured in Champions League and Europa League qualification rounds. There was a noticeable difference physically.
UEFA.com: What must Greece work on before facing Finland?
Ranieri: First of all, physical fitness. I hope my players have had the chance to play for their clubs. That is another thing: not all my players are starters for their clubs, but they will have better physical fitness so that is the basis. We know Finland are familiar opposition for Greece. I remember the first match [as Greece coach] for Otto Rehhagel, who went on to win the EURO in 2004 – they lost 5-1 to Finland. They have been always a difficult team for Greece.