Soccer coach promises heroics

Fighting the defending European soccer champions in Lisbon tonight for a berth in the Euro 2004 semifinals, Greece’s national soccer squad will do – or die like heroes, coach Otto Rehhagel vowed yesterday. France, which, apart from the Euro 2000, also won the 1998 World Cup, would be no coach’s dream opponent. But the German who coached Greece to its best-ever showing in international soccer argued that his men have already done their duty with the unprecedented feat of reaching the second round of a major tournament. «What we all dreamed of has happened,» he told a press conference. «We will face a team that has won the World Cup and the European Cup, while many of its players have won Europe’s Champions’ League with their clubs.» «My players have no anxiety. They will play for the enjoyment of the game… and if we fall, we will fall like Greeks, like heroes.» Midfielder Vassilis Tsiartas was more prosaic. «A lot of things have changed in football,» he said. «There are not so many differences between teams. Now the big teams need to prove they belong where they are.» French coach Jacques Santini promised that his players would not be taking Greece lightly. «You have to have a lot of respect for this sort of nation,» he said. «These are the countries that are coming into form at the moment.» Greece will be playing without attacker Zissis Vryzas, suspended with two yellow cards, who scored the national squad’s goal in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Russia. Furthermore, midfielder Stelios Yiannakopoulos is expected to miss the match after suffering an injury during the 1-1 draw with Spain. Up to 6,000 Greeks are expected to attend tonight’s game, which starts at 9.45 p.m. Greek time.