The drabbing by Italy last Saturday and above all Tuesday’s 3-2 home loss to Armenia has split the Greece camp into two, as the coaching setup refuses to see reality and targeted captain Sokratis Papastathopoulos who stated the obvious, that the Euro 2020 campaign is all but over and extensive changes are needed in the national team.
In the minutes after the final whistle at the Olympic Stadium, when a disappointing Greece suffered its first ever defeat to Armenia, and a home one at that amid jeering by the few thousands of fans, Papastathopoulos chose not to mince his words.
“The goals we conceded were playground goals and I take full responsibility for that,” said the Arsenal star. “I will take responsibility for whatever you wish. I believe developments will come and should come. I do not know anything specific, as for the soccer issues it is the president [of the federation] who is responsible,” added Papastathopoulos, noting that Greece stands no chance of qualifying to the Euro 2020 finals anymore.
Crucially, reports in the Greek media even speak of an ultimatum Papastathopoulos and fellow central defender Costas Manolas gave federation president Costas Grammenos, saying it is either Anastasiadis or them in the national team from now on. Manolas was kept on the bench in the Armenia game.
The defenders’ initiative was expressed in a brief talk to Grammenos just after the match with Armenia, in the presence of several federation board members. This is very likely to lead to swift decisions.
Anastasiadis responded angrily when he was informed of the captain’s statements, saying: “Well, I believe we will go to the finals. If Mr Papastathopoulos does not believe so, he has no place here. He should not have told the press but to us in the locker room that he does not believe we can proceed. He is automatically placing himself out of the national team.”
In a divisive comment, the national team manager added: ”Ask the other lads, [Costas] Fortounis, [Dimitris] Siovas and [Andreas] Samaris, whether any one of them does not believe in it. The answer is what I am telling you.”
Technical director Angelos Basinas toed the same line: “When you play like that from the first 10 minutes, the manager cannot do anything. I believe there is a future, there are lads who wish to give everything, whoever does not want to come should not join us. A managerial change will not do anything.”
While the federation is yet to formally take a stand on the matter, alternate president Nikos Vakalis stated in the early hours of Wednesday that the choice of Anastasiadis for the national team may have been a mistake, adding that being selfish is a bad feature that should be suppressed, effectively asking Anastasiadis to do the decent thing and go.