Rehhagel eyes the finish line

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel thinks his side is in the «final stretch» of the race to qualify for the European soccer championships next year after watching his team beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-2 in Athens on Saturday. Greece tops Group C on 22 points, four more than Turkey, which is in second place, with just three games to go. European champion Greece needs just three more points to secure a place in Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. «I would compare the qualification process to a 400-meter race, we are now in the final stretch. We are not over the finish line yet but we are very close,» said Rehhagel following an eventful game at the Olympic Stadium. His side beat 10-man Bosnia-Herzegovina thanks to goals from Angelos Charisteas, Fanis Gekas and Nikos Liberopoulos but suffered a couple of worrying moments along the way. «The players worked very hard and we deserved the lead but I was unhappy with elements of our game after that,» said Rehhagel. Greece will now play Turkey in Istanbul on Wednesday. Turkey is the only side to beat Greece in Group C so far and Rehhagel admitted that the 4-1 home defeat is on the players’ minds. «We have not forgotten our defeat to Turkey in the first game, so we want to get something good in Istanbul.» With Malta at home and Hungary away to come, Rehhagel knows that one win from the remaining three games will be enough to see his side through to Austria and Switzerland for next year’s tournament. Greece only need three more points because Turkey and Norway face each other in the penultimate round of the qualifying stage, which means that only one of the two would go through. «We will go for the win in Turkey, we always play to win,» said Bolton Wanderers midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos who came on in the second half to set up the third goal. «We are aware of what happened against the Turks here and we owe them one,» said captain Angelos Basinas. «In the condition we are in, this team can beat anybody. We went through a period of doubt but we have found our rhythm now.»