The heroics of 2004 are still fresh in the minds of many as Greece take to the Euros in Poland this summer. While they may not be able to reach the same heights that saw them steal a march on Portugal eight years back, the defensive foundation is strong enough to put them in with a shout. Led by Fernando Santos, 35 year old captain Giorgos Karagounis will have to roll back the years to produce the kind of magic that saw them become European Champions in 2004.
The Greeks enjoyed a qualifying campaign that surpassed expectations, finishing atop the group that included Croatia and Israel among others. A convincing 24 points saw them edge the Croats by two points and march into the tournament proper without the need for play-offs. The defence played a major role, conceding only five goals in ten outings. The attack, however, failed to impress, scoring only fourteen goals during the entire campaign. The fact that they had three players as joint-top scorers in qualifying, two from defence in Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Vassilis Torossidis, and one midfielder – Giannis Fetfatzidis, gives a clear indication that the Galanolefki can pose a threat from set-pieces.
The experience of veterans Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis will prove vital in dictating play from midfield, while Dimitris Salpingidis and Giorgios Samaras make for tricky customers down the flanks. The versatile Fanis Gekas will provide a new dimension in attack, while the young Sotoris Ninis is sure to add a bit of flair to an otherwise straight forward approach. The main concern faced by Santos is the lack of a reliable goalkeeper. Unlike the legendary squad of 2004, the Greeks do not have a custodian who can match the quality of Nikopolidis.
Whether the combination of youth and experience will bring Greece any success, is yet to be seen. However, any team that writes them off from the competition will only be making a mistake, as the Portuguese will tell you.