SPORTS

Greek Cup finals get started today

Greek volleyball’s top eight clubs have gathered in Kalamata, in southern Greece to compete for the Greek Cup in a «Final Eight» knockout tournament series of quarterfinals, semifinals and the final, beginning today. Revised to focus greater attention and help raise the sport’s popularity, the Greek Volleyball Cup’s eight remaining contenders are being brought together for tournament play for the first time. Quarterfinal matches will be held today and tomorrow. Today’s agenda includes a quarterfinal clash between Athens rivals Olympiakos and Panathinaikos at 8 p.m. Two hours earlier, Orestiada will meet PAOK. Tomorrow, Aris plays Nikaia at 6 p.m, and defending champion Iraklis confronts Patras at 8 p.m. «We need three victories to win the Greek Cup, and that’s our aim,» noted Olympiakos player Marios Giourdas. His teammate Plamen Constantinov added: «It’s the competition’s big derby. I believe in our team’s capabilities and think we will manage.» At Panathinaikos, players and officials kept a low profile. «It’s a knockout match, and the game will be difficult. We’ll give it our best shot and whoever is in better shape on the day will have the upper hand,» noted Panathinaikos player Sotiris Pantaleon. Teammate Grigoris Sidiropoulos was more optimistic. «I believe we will get through to the next round. It will be tough and Olympiakos will be entering the game after a series of good results. But we’re in good form and will strive to qualify for the next round,» said Sidiropoulos. Aris player Niki Zeliaskov highlighted the tournament’s anticipated high standard of play. «The competition features the league’s top eight teams. The quarterfinal phase includes the Greek league’s top eight clubs, and I like the way the competition is being held,» Zeliaskov said. «We’re going to play without stress and will look to enjoy the game. Of course, Nikea will be seeking victory,» he added. Yiannis Kalmazidis of Aris said his team’s quarterfinal draw against Nikaia was tough but inevitable as a result of the high caliber of clubs. Hoping to repeat last season’s Greek Cup success, Iraklis will face Patras in the quarterfinals. «They’re a considerable side, and the next games will be even tougher,» said Theodoris Bozidis. «The draw has been favorable to us and we may soon meet again with Olympiakos,» he added, referring to a recent loss in the league against the Piraeus club. Olympiakos, holder of the greatest number of Greek Cup titles, has 10 titles to its credit. Panathinaikos follows with three titles, and Iraklis with two.