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'Mixed emotions' as new Socceroo prepares to face former country

TAGS: Soccer

Striker Apostolos Giannou said he expects "mixed emotions" if he plays for Australia in Saturday’s friendly against Greece – six months after briefly representing the Greek national team.

China-based Giannou, who was born in Greece but grew up in Australia, played for the former European champions in November but was allowed to switch to the Socceroos because his appearance was in a friendly.

Giannou represented both Greece and Australia at youth level but he was persuaded to commit his future to the Asian title-holders by a visit from Greek-born Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou.

"I guess, it’s mixed emotions for me," the 26-year-old Guangzhou R&F forward told Australian broadcaster ABC.

"When Ange came to Greece to talk to me about playing for Australia he didn’t want to force me to do anything.

"I have a few friends in the Greek national team that’s for sure. It will be fun."

Giannou made his Australia debut in March but his lone appearance for Greece, a 0-0 draw with Turkey, was shrouded in controversy.

The Greek FA was later fined and forfeited the match 3-0 for not submitting the required paperwork for Giannou, who made his Australia debut in the 7-0 win over Tajikistan in March.

Greece captain Andreas Samaris, a former national youth team-mate of Giannou, said he rated the striker highly from his days in Greek domestic soccer.

"I really like him as a player. He’s strong, he’s tall, he’s fast. I believe he was one of the best strikers in the Greek league and [now] for China," Samaris said on Friday.

Giannou’s emergence comes at a time when Australia are searching for a successor for their record goal-scorer Tim Cahill, who is in the twilight of his career at 36.

Postecoglou has forwards Cahill, Nathan Burns, Matthew Leckie and Giannou available after they missed the 2-1 loss to England in Sunderland last month.

Greece, who failed to qualify for Euro 2016, have no injury concerns but coach Michael Skibbe left Benfica striker Kostas Mitroglou out of his squad.

The two sides will also meet in Melbourne on Tuesday. [AFP]
 

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