The only real bad news on the injury front at the moment is a knock to Bologna’s Vaggelis Moras who looks set, at this stage, to miss out on the opener against the South Koreans. Moras is a solid center back and he did well in qualifying specifically toward the end of the campaign. I still remember his performance in Donetsk and he is certainly a quality addition to the backline. Hopefully he will recover in time, if not then at least he will be available for the second match versus Nigeria.
Okay, so since we are pretty close now I am going to offer my two cents on how we’ll do in South Africa. I will go on the record as saying I already feel better than back in 2008 when I felt that the weight of expectation would hurt us at the European Championship.
I’m not sure if it was that expectation or just the fact that we played awful which brought about a quick exit from that tournament, however I do believe there will be a vast improvement on that performance.
Now the friendlies didn’t give us the best send off to South Africa, though I found it slightly encouraging that we figured out that we had issues to deal with. There is nothing like getting a wake-up call before the tournament rather than being 20 minutes into your first World Cup match and finding yourself down 2-0. Obviously I would have preferred some solid play against North Korea and Paraguay, but I prefer to look at the positives.
So, here it goes… Greece will make it to the quarter-finals! Regular readers (all 4 of you) of my column will know by now that I am an eternal optimist, but even I can’t be crazy enough to suggest that this Greek side will go to the last 8 of the World Cup, can I?
The answer is yes. I believe we will defeat South Korea on Saturday. I really rate the South Korean team, but I feel that the boys will come ready to play and if we impose our game on South Korea then I am hopeful of a good result. Assuming we defeat South Korea, I truly believe we will eke out a result of some sort against Nigeria and hopefully four or six points will be enough to advance. Obviously, banking on getting points against Argentina in the group finale is not something that I hope we have to do, however by that point hopefully Argentina are already qualified for the next round and won't have as big of an incentive to give everything against us.
After that it would be a team from Group A in the Round of 16. We are a team built for knockout round matches so though all four teams have my respect, I would not fear any side from Group A in a one-off scenario. After that is pointless to predict as who knows what will happen, but that is my hopeful forecast. I know some of you will laugh, but it’s all about who is laughing in the end so we will see.
That is my wishful thinking, but I have learned in life sometimes you need to do just that. Advancing to the second round is the real goal, but even a valiant effort that comes up short will be embraced and applauded. Remember that our World Cup history is virtually non-existent. What I really hope this World Cup does is give us a basis to build on, a first goal, a first point, a first win and whatever comes after that will be the cherry on top or the syrup drizzled over the baklava, whatever you prefer.
The fact that we are here is fantastic in itself. Instead of adopting a team like Greeks are so used to doing when the world’s greatest sporting event comes around, we get to have that nervous feeling in our stomachs come Saturday, we get to feel that anticipation, the excitement, the passion, and the pride of hearing the national anthem played and the emotion that comes with it. Win, lose, or draw, we Greek supporters get all those things and the coaches and players deserve a big thank you for giving us that joy.
That is it for today, I will be back a few more times in the lead-up to Saturday’s match. I’ll give my assessment of South Korea before Saturday, my preferred starting 11, and all the news and build-up for what is really our World Cup Final, the opening fixture against South Korea.
As always I want to hear from you. How are you thinking we will do? How proud are you that Greece will be represented in South Africa? Send over your thoughts, views, questions, and criticisms. Your feedback spurs me on and inspires me to write about our lads!
I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have commented so far or contacted me. It means a lot that you have taken your time to write and I value every single post that has been made. Thank you...Sas Euxaristw!