Today, in the 6th of 16 blogs I look at the defending EURO 2008 Champions. Greece were against all the odds, and came through. So, they are not to be taken lightly at all.
On June 10, the Greeks will face Sweden at the Wals-Siezenhem Stadion in Austria to kick off the tourney. This first match will be the most crucial for the defending champs. In a very tough group that has 4 Quarter-Final worthy teams in it, they need to grab at least a point out of the match to advance. And if anybody can do that, it is the Greeks. With a wonderful defence and a good little counter-attack, the Greeks will look to prove that the last time was no fluke.
Strength- Very rarely would you think that a 36 year-old is a strength of a team, but with Greece I just feel this man is one of their big key guys. Without Antonios Nikopolidis, Greece would not be the same at all. The Greek goalkeeper is one of the best leaders in all of Europe. He may not be the official captain of the team right now, but in my eyes, he really is the captain. I've seen him come out and shut teams out all by himself before like in the group stages of the Champions League when he single-handely kept two-time Spanish champion Real Madrid out of goal. As a player for Olympiakos, he has been touted as one of the best penalty kick goalkeepers on the planet. During the recent season, he saved the most spot kicks as any in the Greek League. If Greece can get it into PK's, then I believe they have a great chance to win as long as they put it on target. The grey-headed goalkeeper is not to be messed with, and he will soon prove it to everyone.
Weakness- As good as they are, their weakness this season for me isn't all that big of a real weakness, just sheer fact. The Greeks somehow were able to win the last edition of the tourney, and after all that has occurred of late, you have to believe that they have a huge bullseye on their backs. The Greeks were not flukes, but everyone will look to prove it, and I feel that this is going to hurt them ulimately. That coupled with the lack of star power is going to cost them as teams will look to exploit certain parts of the field by moving players around.
Player to Watch- Angelos Basinas. The Greek captain will be the man that I will watch. Not only how well he plays, but how well he leads will be important. If he can't lead well, then they might as well go home, and if he can't score a couple, they'll go home anyway. The Real Mallorca midfielder will look to make a big splash on the international scene so that he will maybe be able to go to a bigger and better club in the future.
Prediction- Before I started this series, I went ahead and mapped out my results. I just didn't know what to do with Group D, but I had to figure it out and I just don't see Greece coming out of this group. I see them coming in 4th, but that's not that bad. Going to matchday 4, all 4 teams will have a chance to make it in, but I see them falling short on that final day. Sorry Hellas fans. I really like this team, but have a very large mountain to climb.
Once again, thanks. Tomorrow, I'll look at Italy. Until next time, it's been Keeper and I'm out.