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Withdrawals, injuries weaken Ireland for soccer friendly

A spate of injuries and withdrawals has left Ireland caretaker-manager Don Givens facing a difficult task ahead of the friendly soccer game with Greece in Athens tonight at the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium, his first game in temporary control of the team. Givens - the temporary replacement for Mick McCarthy, who resigned earlier this month - has lost 11 members of his original 25-man squad. Greece has no such problems and trained with a full complement of players yesterday. Greece's German coach Otto Rehhagel has dropped Roma's Traianos Dellas and Perugia's Zizis Vryzas and called up under-21 players Dimitris Papadopoulos of Burnley, and Stuttgart's Yiannis Amanatidis, as well as AEK's goalkeeper Dionyssis Hiotis. «Ireland's players are fighters, they have egos, power, and the right attitude,» Rehhagel told reporters. «This will be a difficult game and gives us opportunities to try things,» he added, while noting that the under-21 players would be used to boost the incentives of youngsters. «We can still qualify, mathematically it's possible and if we didn't believe that, we wouldn't be here,» said Hiotis. Both Greece and Ireland have both made poor starts to their Euro 2004 qualifying campaigns, with Ireland losing to Russia and Switzerland in Group 10 and Greece winning one of its three opening games in Group Six. Greece lost its first two matches against Spain and Ukraine before beating Armenia 2-0 at home. Scrambling for replacements, Givens was dealt a further blow when Wimbledon striker David Connolly failed to join up with the squad after a disagreement with the new boss. «When I named the 25 last week, I expected a few to withdraw but I was surprised by the number. But this gives the players left in the squad and those coming in a great chance to impress at international level,» Givens said. In the absence of regular strikers Damien Duff and Robbie Keane, Glen Crowe of League of Ireland club Bohemians should win his first senior cap, the first Ireland-based player to represent his country since Pat Byrne of Shamrock Rovers in 1986. Coventry City's Barry Quinn and Richie Partridge and the uncapped Shelbourne winger Wesley Hoolihan have been called up as replacements, giving Givens a revised party of 18, which includes three goalkeepers and five center halves. (Reuters/Kathimerini)

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