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International Soccer: Greeks aiming to retain top spot
Five years after stunning world soccer, winning Euro 2004, Greece finds itself at a crossroads.
The Greek national team will hold its first training session in Israel on Friday after landing at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday evening. Five years after stunning world soccer, winning Euro 2004, Greece finds itself at a crossroads. Several of the triumphant players remain in the squad and will play on Saturday, but they have passed their peak and veteran German coach Otto Rehhagel's biggest challenge is to introduce young blood while maintaining a successful side. After a disappointing 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign, finishing fourth in its group, Greece cruised into Euro 2008, winning 10 of its 12 matches and finishing top of the group. But the Greeks lost all three of their matches in Euro 2008, and after a perfect start to their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, suffered a surprise 2-1 home defeat to Switzerland in their last qualifier in October of last year. "We're facing a very tough match, but if we play intelligently I'm convinced we will achieve our goal," Rehhagel said on Thursday. "You need to play with patience in Israel. We've succeeded in difficult matches before and I believe we will accomplish our target on Saturday. We're in first place in the group and we want to maintain it." Rehhagel is expected to stick with his usual line-up. Konstantinos Chalkias (PAOK Thessaloniki) is expected to start in goal, with Traianos Dellas (Anorthosis Famagusta), Sotirios Kyrgiakos (AEK Athens), Vasileios Torosidis (Olympiacos) and Giourkas Seitaridis (Atletico Madrid) to play in the defense. Angelos Basinas (Portsmouth), Georgios Karagounis (Panathinaikos) and Alexandros Tziolis (Werder Bremen) will likely play in the center of the field, with Angelos Charisteas (Bayer Leverkusen) and Georgios Samaras (Celtic) to play on the wings and Theofanis Gekas (Portsmouth) to be the lone striker.
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