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Changes ahead for the national team context after World Cup elimination

GEORGE GEORGAKOPOULOS

TAGS: Soccer

Many things are about to change in the national team set-up following the elimination to Croatia from the 2018 World Cup, but manager Michael Skibbe is not one of them.

After 12 years at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, the national team will likely relocate to the Olympic Stadium of Athens and the Kaftanzoglio Stadium in Thessaloniki.

The reasons for the departure from the stadium in Piraeus are not just related to numerous ugly scenes seen there, with the beating up of a Panathinaikos fan at the Greece vs Gibraltar game, the booing at players not originating from Olympiakos, etc. They are also related to the recent change in the Hellenic Football Federation leadership which is not as friendly to the Greek champion as the previous administrations were.

Skibbe is staying on, not only for improving the set-up and the mindset of the national team in many ways from the disastrous campaign of the Euro 2016 qualifiers when Greece finished bottom of its pool losing twice to the Faroe Islands, but also for winning over the players, who are solidly supporting his stay at the Greece bench.

What is going to change though is his cooperation with the Greek soccer world, with the federation – that is set to propose to Skibbe a new contract till 2020 – expected to ask him for a greater engagement with the local game. The press has insisted on Skibbe attending more games than just the league derbies and the Cup final, and on him cooperating closely with Super League managers.

What is also changing is the Greece timetable, given the start of the Nations League, the new UEFA tournament meant to replace friendly games and to boost revenues through the collective sale of broadcasting and advertising rights. Therefore the next competitive games for Greece will  not be the Euro 2020 qualifiers (that will kick off in spring 2019), but the first Nations League games in September 2018.

Come the qualifiers though, qualification will be absolutely imperative, with experienced defenders Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Vassilis Torosidis warning that another elimination from a major tournament will make it extremely difficult for Greece to recover in the foreseeable future, as it will slide further down the FIFA rankings, and that they will then retire from the national team.

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