Greece: Promethean boredom

The Greeks celebrating 2004

If there was one team that defined beautiful and joyous football, it was the Barcelona side of the past couple of seasons.  If there was one team that defined the exact opposite of that—ugly, torturous football surely it is the Greece of the 2000’s.

Watching Greece will not be fun. They have the most defensive formation ever seen in football. The entire team plays to defend.  They make very few attempts at scoring, relying on corners and free-kicks to utilize an aerial threat. They’ve been like this since coach Rehhagel took over in 2001, and will be like this in the World Cup.

Historically, Greece was a non-entity in international football. It only ever qualified to the World Cup once before, in 1994, where they lost three games to Nigeria, Argentina and Bulgaria, conceded 10 goals, and scored none.  Memorable stuff, this was not.

All of this was turned on its head, however, in 2004 when Greece shocked the world to win the European championship.  This was without a doubt the biggest shock in the history of international football.  Greece were the least likely of all teams to win the tournament.  Their odds reached 1000-1 before the tournament.  No one, not even the players themselves, dreamt this could happen.  Yet somehow it did.

Mastermind

The secret lies in German mastermind coach Otto Rehhagel, who does know a thing or two about football.  Rehhagel is the Mr. Miyagi of football management—the supremely in control omniscient manager of all things on his team.  He maneuvered his players like chess pawns in 2004 to shock the world.  Don’t bet on him pulling it off again… but it is not entirely safe to bet against him.

At a time when the Greek government is facing insolvency through its incompetent and duplicitous management of its accounts, they could really learn a thing or two from the no-nonsense disciplinarian style of management of Rehhagel.  Although it doesn’t help that he happens to come from the same country as Angela Merkl–the Greeks have had enough of Germans telling them what to do!

This time around, to add to Rehaggel’s defensive fortitude, Greece have someone who is good at the goal-scoring business, as well: Bayer Leverkusen striker Theo Gekas.  If he finds form, and the defense is as useful as ever, who knows what can happen. They have surprised people before.  Neutrals everywhere, however, will be hoping they don’t.

The Guardian’s team guide.

Zonal Marking’s tactical analysis.

Squad list with links to player profiles on FIFA.com:

Greece

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