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Posted by George Tsitsonis on 06/21/2010

Less than two goals a game, some awful goalkeeping, a strange ball, loud vuvuzelas, and many of the favorites struggling. That is perhaps how the first 10 days of the World Cup can be characterized. It has been a fascinating tournament to watch, however not really for the reasons that I was thinking it would be. I believed that the football on display would have been right up there with the best Cups ever, though sadly I have been disappointed. The first round of matches was difficult watching, though the second matches in each group have been better.

So, as this is the Greek Correspondent’s page, how does the above relate to Greece? Well, simply put, knowing how the big guns have struggled we can make the case that this tournament has not only been a historic one for Greece, but also a successful one regardless of the result against Argentina.

The fact that we are still alive going into the third match is fantastic and for a country like ours with the football history we have you can’t ask for much more that can you? When you see the likes of France, England, Italy, Germany, and possibly Spain, and Portugal all needing to win or get a result in their final matches in order to advance and a few in real danger of missing out then it is all the perspective one need's to see that we have done well no matter what happens on Tuesday. The win over Nigeria changed the complexion of the entire tournament for Greek supporters.

Perspective

The bottom line is that we have achieved what we set out to when the tournament began. It started with the huge disappointment of the South Korea match, however the performance and result against Nigeria has changed everything for us.

We have our first goal, our first points, our first win and the performance made us proud that we support this team, this country. For a country in such dire economic straits, Greece’s victory can help raise our collective confidence just a little, a reminder that when the chips are down Greeks can do great things.

I for one am ecstatic at the way this tournament has gone. Obviously I too was greatly upset and disappointed with the MANNER of the 2-0 defeat to South Korea. The passion and pride were missing, however against Nigeria it all came back.

We have now achieved what I was hoping we would from this tournament. We have built a base for future Greek teams, Rehhagel’s side have written a history that will always remain. The goals and the win provide a foundation with which to build on. No future Greek World Cup sides will suffer from the burden of their country never having scored or a World Cup goal or done anything positive in the competition before.

The Nigeria win also will provide a marker, an example to follow. Say we lose another opener in a future World Cup, then those players can look at their own team’s history and say “Well the 2010 side came back, so can we”. This matters. This building of a history, of a myth is crucial in my mind. How many times have Italy not played well early and then gone on to do great things in the latter stages. I am not comparing us to the Italians or their footballing pedigree, but any success for Greece at the World Cup helps form a positive reputation and can eliminate a negative mentality. Teams like Italy or Brazil or even Denmark have something to compare against. We have had the curse of the 1994 side as our only historical comparison until this World Cup.

Some will call me crazy, but that win on Thursday against Nigeria is not just great for Greece’s World Cup aspirations in South Africa, it’s also a pivotal moment in the nation’s football history.

Ridiculous Coverage

It was of little surprise to see the grandiose headlines that decorated Greek papers after the Ethniki came away with that huge victory. Gigantic headlines accompanied by pictures of Torosidis and Salpingides adorned these papers that treat sport like soap operas.

I buy them too so I can’t complain too much, however it hurts to see how the national team is treated by these newspapers. Greece have more than a dozen daily sports-only papers and nearly all of them should be ashamed of their coverage of the national team. Yes, when the team do well or something miraculous then the coverage is overly positive and vast with pages and pages devoted to the team’s exploits.

But traditionally when the team have been poor or mediocre, scant coverage of the Greek side is offered. In the lead-up to the 2010 World Cup, the coverage could have been described as miniscule. A tiny box in the bottom corner that had a few words directed readers to page 12 in order to read about the team’s preparations. Who Olympiakos or Panathinaikos were gunning for in the transfer market was the focus. I for one was disgusted to see this on a daily basis.

The loss to South Korea saw the daggers come out, it was pathetic, yet completely expected. The criticism spewed out by these papers (again most, not all) was unbelievable. I too criticized the team selection and the overall attitude of the players, however there were headlines I read that said “Win or Come Back Home” before the match against Nigeria. Since when did we become Brazil and a berth in the 2nd round was a must?

It was nice to see some of the players give it back to these hacks after the victory. I'm not suggesting for a second that the national team, the players and the manager should be above criticism especially when it is balanced and fair and relating to sporting issue, however the venom present in some of the coverage was downright cruel in some cases.

Rehhagel has been treated worse than a bad 6th Division amateur coach, while the players have been continually described as old, useless, lazy, and amateurish. They have all made mistakes undoubtedly, but they don’t deserve this abuse. What is more frustrating is that after the Nigeria match there was widespread joy at the win, suddenly all was okay again just because we had won. Can you say fair-weather fans? Can you say ridiculous, unbalanced coverage?

Torosidis came out to say that he dedicated the win to “all the people that love the Ethniki”, while Karagounis asked the reporters why they had to knock the players down after every defeat. Gekas said it best yesterday when he told the media that they had to relax with their spiraling out of control expectations, that the players were grounded and that the reporters were the ones who were once again trying to build up Greece’s chances of qualifying.


Our Final

Okay, apologies for going off on a tangent there. It’s just that this team deserves more respect that it gets. It’s not only about sticking by your team when things are going well, it’s about helping them ride through the tough times.

On we go…and Argentina now await in our final group game. Join me tomorrow for complete coverage in the lead-up to this match. Can we win? I say a million times…yes! I respect Argentina more than anyone and in Lionel Messi they have not only the best player in the world, but in my opinion the one player who will define his generation. We will go up against, also in my humble opinion, the best team at this Cup so far. The task at hand is virtually impossible. But it’s not completely impossible. If nothing else, we have a reason to believe. Like any supporters who is looking for some hope, some reason to believe, a dream to chase, Greece have given us just that.

I have been beaming for three days now, because we basically have been given a “World Cup Final” against a superb team like Argentina. We get to feel all the emotions of playing what in essence is a knock-out match at the World Cup. That in itself is the cherry on top of this journey thus far, yet who knows, maybe just maybe there is a miracle waiting for us on Tuesday. We hope, we believe, and we enjoy this strange World Cup. We’ll talk more tomorrow!


As always please send in your thoughts. It has been an absolute joy hearing from all of you and I can’t express enough the happiness I derive from the comments I receive and the passion they convey. Send in your thoughts and feelings on Greece’s World Cup journey. Are you excited? Can we get a result against Argentina?

Comments

Posted by Alex on 06/21/2010

Hello George,
Just wanted to let you know I've been following your blog for a while now, and I've really enjoyed your commentary.

I've had a roller coaster of emotions during this tournament, but like you, I still believe we could get a positive result against Argentina.

I had a few question that I hoped you could comment on in a future post...you mentioned the incoming generation of greek players. Is this new group really that different in regard to talent, or are we putting too much hype on this new generation? Should we expect even greater achievements by our team in the future, or are we pretty much in our golden age right now? Also what of Rehhagel? Will he still be around after this? If not, who would you like to see as the next head coach? Who would you expect it to be?

Thanks,
Alex
ELLAS

Posted by Athanasios on 06/21/2010

Another great post George. My cousin is a journalist in Greece, but I agree the hometown coverage was bleak. I too think H Ethniki Mas can take Argentina. I loved the aggressive play versus Nigeria, and think it will carry over and overwhelm a team like Argentina that has already qualified.

Posted by Nondas on 06/21/2010

Good Stuff George! I agree with you 100% that tomorrow is our world cup final, a knock-out match that Karagounis himself said in an interview before the tournament anyone can win! I'm ecstatic to be watching this meaningful 3rd match for our Greek side, and cant wait for the whistle! I too believe that impossible is nothing and that a Greek tragedy is in our midsts....Pame ELLADARA!

Posted by George on 06/21/2010

Alex, Athanasios, and Nondas...euxaristw my friends for your kind words! I am so grateful anyone even reads this let alone comments on it! I am indebted to you fine lads.

Athanasios and Nondas, I like your hopeful attitude and there is no reason to think otherwise really. We might as well grab ahold of that hope and squueze it for all it's worth. On Tuesday it's 11 v 11 and anything can happen!

Alex, I don't think this is the golden age of Greek football, though it may be the start. There is a lot of superb talent coming through and for me what it comes down to is Greek clubs giving these youngsters a chance to play. The quality and talent is there, it just has to be nurtured.

I think Rehhagel will be gone after the WC. He has given us so much for sure, but I think it just might be time for a new coach to step in. There are rumors of Fernando Santos taking the post. That wouldn't be disastrous, but I think that Dusan Bajevic could do wonders with these players. All the best.

Posted by Greekfreak on 06/22/2010

We can win, but we most likely won't, even without their starters--but it wouldn't be the first time a team threw a game to ensure that a weaker team progressed in the group that they may have to face later.

It's strategy, just like any other sport.

I have a feeling Nigeria won't do us any favours, but a tie in that match gives us a big chance to upset the contenders, and it's not impossible that we could grind out a result. Even a 0-0 draw coupled with a Nigeria win would be fabulous.

Even so, I'm just happy that we shed that '94 duck and am looking forward to qualification for Euro 2012, in which we can be sure to see some younger players with more hunger, and a new coach with a bit more optimism than the one we have now.

Posted by Vangeli on 06/22/2010

Great blog, only just came across it.

IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING...

Prepei na paiksoune me pathos kai kardia apopse!

Gia tin Ellada re gamoto!!

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