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Posted by George Tsitsonis on 06/14/2010

So I’ve had a few days to get over the loss to South Korea, I suppose I haven’t actually gotten over it, but just as someone who gets shot and survives I am here ready to write again. I’ll confess I made my way to the laptop quite a few times in the last couple days, however I couldn’t bear to write anything. Anger, disappointment, a sense of defeat, and no inspiration conspired against me to produce nothing but a blank screen.

A long time ago I remember someone asking me what is worse, to have no chance at winning or to have the potential and have it go unfulfilled. It’s a sort of which came first the chicken or the egg in sporting terms and I never really knew what the answer was until Greece’s defeat to South Korea. To my little brain and corresponding intellect it is clear now that having the potential and not being able to utilize it correctly is something that can just eat the life right out of you.

I’m not insinuating in the least that I was waiting for Greece to win the World Cup. The Euro 2004 victory was something that happens possibly once (I’m hoping more like 2-3 times though) in a lifetime, though I cringe when people say it was a fluke. To suggest that is to really not have a clue about football, again that’s the opinion of your correspondent.

I was however 100% certain that we had a chance to progress to the next round. A chance. This team has potential and that is why both the result and perhaps more so the performance on Saturday against the Koreans was what hurt the most. I have never suggested that Greece play the best football, however there are times that this team, this current side, have shown that they can play decent football. Yes, it is of the defend like hell counter-attack type, but we have produced some good performances from this.

Okay Tsitsonis, what’s your point you’ll be saying and you have a point so here it goes. I am a believer in the ability to rebound from the worst of situations. Football is not more important than life or death to disagree with the great Shankly, but it is a big part of a lot of our lives.

So, as fans who have a team go to the World Cup and who have spent the last days, weeks, months, and years waiting for this moment we are entitled to a few things from our team regardless of whether they are expected to win the whole thing or merely be glad they are there.
I can’t say that I represent all Greek supporters, but I have spoken with and heard from so many of them that I believe the following is close to what many are feeling and hoping.

THIS IS WHAT WE WANT

There are a few things that we want from the Nigeria game from the coaches and players.
For starters, we want Otto Rehhagel to put a team out on the field that will give us a chance to perform well, be competitive, and possibly win. There are millions of Greeks fans who will each have their own idea of how we should play. I realize Rehhagel can’t please us all. I’m okay with the fact that the starting 11 I have in my head might not be the one that is found on the pitch, BUT we at least deserve a system that makes sense, one that has been tried and tested, one where players can perform at their best.

Loukas Vyntra has received the ‘Robert Green’ treatment from media and supporters alike in the last few days. He had a poor match, but he was also placed as a center-back (not his natural position) next to Avraam Papadopoulos. How many official matches or training sessions have those two played together? I don’t know the exact number, but it’s close to 0.
When you want to take off Giorgos Karagounis at halftime, shouldn’t he be replaced by a creative midfielder to help dictate Greek attacks?

Why then is defensive midfielder Christos Patsatsoglou brought on? Isn’t Sotiris Ninis the natural replacement to Karagounis from anyone else in the squad? Why is Ninis even in South Africa is he doesn’t come on in that situation? Since he didn’t come on for Karagounis then why wouldn’t the young talent be subbed for Charisteas instead of honest, but limited Pantelis Kapetanos, who himself was being played out of position.

We were losing the match and creating nothing, so instead of hoofing up long balls and hoping for the best why not bring in one of the few players who can add that bit of energy and creativity to the fold? Maybe Ninis would have done nothing, too in awe of the big stage. But there is a chance he would have done something and perhaps been the spark needed to bring life back into the team. His inclusion would have been logical when we get right down to it.

The fact that Sotiris Kyrgiakos and Sokratis Papastathopoulos didn’t play was also eye-opening. After both enjoyed good seasons with Liverpool and Genoa respectively I couldn’t wait to see them in South Africa. Yes I know, Kyrgiakos is a tad slow and is prone to some hard tackles, but does South Korea score their opener with him defending? Maybe, but possibly not.

His main strength is taking care of situations like that such is his aerial prowess. Papastathopoulos meanwhile may be younger and not as experienced, but he is an emerging talent and had the speed to stay with the Koreans, which was one reason Rehhagel gave for playing Vyntra, his speed (????).

Other mistakes were made too in my opinion, some I’m sure were clear-cut and affected the match, others perhaps just based on my own preferences.

THE PLAYERS

Football is ultimately won on the pitch though and while I’ve had quite a go at Rehhagel and rightfully so I believe, the attitude of the players on Saturday made me want to take off my Greek shirt for the first time ever. I didn’t, but literally tears of anger came to my eyes by what I saw. Every single thing we did was half-hearted. It was a display that could only be described as poor and indifferent.

So, lads we, or I, if no one is still with me have some things we want you to do.

How about some intensity? How about some heart? How about some realization that this is the World Cup? How about some consideration that there are fans who have spent thousands of Euros to come see you in a time of great economic crisis? How about some consideration of the millions of Greeks in Greece and across the world who woke up at all hours of the day and were waiting for you all to play for the shirt.

And that’s just it. You don’t have to win. You don’t have to be Brazil or even Ghana for god’s sake. You just have to care. All we want to see is that you care as much about being on the pitch as we care about watching you be there.

When the national anthem is sung, I want to see the pride in your eyes if not all of you in full voice knowing that every Greek is hanging on the edge of their seat wishing you well and hoping for the best.

This is not meant to be a motivational speech, what I am writing are the things that I want to witness when our team takes the field. We are not going to win every match and no one expects that, but you can’t hide on the pitch. Fans are smart enough to know when a team have given their all and when they have shown up and ran around a bit before heading back to the locker room.

After the match against Nigeria, the only thing I want at the end of the 90 minutes is the sense that “yeah the boys gave it their all”. Anything more would be a fantastic bonus, anything less would make this existing wound deeper and more painful.

Three days remain and I am starting to regain a little bit of hope thanks to that darn optimism problem I have spoken about before. I just pray that Rehhagel and the players give us reason to believe in them again.


Comments

Posted by Greekfreak on 06/14/2010

Good post, re Giorgo--most of us feel the same way. I'd rather lose looking good than lose looking like to bourthelo tis Katinas.

Anyway, I'm happy/sad to hear about the pre-game dust-up. It means that Caligula's reign as our emperor is at an end, but it's sad that it had to take this long, and manifest itself in such a way and at such an important time.

Even Togo, who lost their coach in 2006 right before their first match, managed to score the first goal of the game.

Posted by maguziak on 06/15/2010

The first goal came SO quick.

I wonder how much our players were affected by that since our strategy works best when we score first.

But in the end, I agree that we lacked the spirit and passion that was needed, and that was what killed us.
We didn't show any kind of tenacity and optimism and it only got worse as time went on.

Rehhagel said he had to take out Karagounis at halftime because he looked too discouraged...

Well, if our captain and the most experience player is discouraged enough to make the coach take him out at halftime just because we're behind or things are not working as expected, then there is a problem.

I seriously hope Rehhagel starts Moras and Kyrgiakos against Nigeria.

Posted by OriginalBomba on 06/15/2010

Ligo dramatiko, file. Greece showed up against SKorea after the 67th minute. Otto sought to correct his mistakes and made the right changes, but it was too little too late - note Greece's increased pace of play and number of shots after the subs. Otto simply chose the wrong squad/formation: A 4-4-2 makes more sense.

Chalkias(G), Seitarides(RB), Papastathopoulos(RCB), Kyrgiakos (LCB) Papadopoulos (LB), Torosides(RM), Ninis(CAM), Katsouranis(CDM), Patsas(LM), Gekas(RF), Salpingidis(LF)

Greek football was not accurately represented against SKorea, and one game does not quantify the value of either team.

Posted by Yoon on 06/15/2010

South Korea is a good team, I think you Greece might have underestimated them, like many people still do. ie. reason why it's so hard for Greece fans (like you) to accept the loss

Posted by maguziak on 06/15/2010

Yoon, we're not denying the loss.

Korea is a good team, but the point is, it wasn't supposed to be easy for either side, but it was.

We came out flat and didn't give ourselves a chance.

But no point in defending our team for now.

They must go out and prove something against Nigeria or else they will forever be a shame and disgrace to our country.

Posted by Joseph on 06/16/2010

@ Yoon. Its not that we are upset losing against Korea - its just that our manager seemed to create a line-up and tactics that just gave the win to the Koreans without a fight. The Greek under 21 are 5 points ahead in the euro qualifiers (5 points ahead of england) and came 2nd in the under 19 olympics (with many of the german under 21s who we beat in the semis now were in the 4-0 defeat of auzziland). Otto said he would play attacking football when he had talent...he has talent now ...then bloody use it.

P.S if any team is underrated its NORTH Korea...they don't even have proper facilities to train in ...they'd beat south Korea anytime.

Posted by Charles Kyriacou on 06/16/2010

I think you also have zero comprehension of the article.

We are not disspointed with the loss as much as how we lost. We might as well have not played. Greece is known for their passion and we are dissapointed that their passion did not come close to equating with ours.

South Korea had nothing to do with it.

Posted by OriginalBomba on 06/16/2010

To be underestimated in this tournament is an invaluable advantage. For me, the loss would have been easier to accept if Greece had fielded her best 11, and, imho, we didn't; this doesn't take anything away from SKorea's win, it merely supports an argument for unrealized potential from the Greek side... which we were discussing in a blog titled "What We (Greeks) Want." (!?)

Posted by Athanasios on 06/16/2010

Could not agree more regarding Ninis. Perhaps its too much pressure for one player, but he's the guy H Ethniki Mas needs against Nigeria.

Posted by Andrew on 06/16/2010

Greek fans: do you think Rehhagel will rectify his error and come out with a new (more creative) lineup vs. Nigeria, or do you think he'll send the same one out that he did v. South Korea? Genuinely curious, as I think you guys can definitely win if he gets the right players on the pitch.

Thanks,
Andrew

Posted by Theo on 06/17/2010

Greece should play to their strengths with a
4-1-3-2 formation.

Tsorvas(GK), Vyndra(RB), Papastathopoulos(RCB), Kyrgiakos (LCB) Spyropoulos (LB), Tziolis (CDM), Torosidis(RM), Ninis(CAM), Karagounis(LM), (LM), Gekas(RF), Samaras(LF)

We thank Katsouranis & Seitaridis for Euro2004 but their attitude is the worst of the team. Ellas! boreis! boreis na prokritheis!!

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