Rehhagel calls for power and passion in Euro 2004 match

Speaking to reporters yesterday ahead of tomorrow night’s crucial Euro 2004 Group 6 qualifier against Northern Ireland in Belfast, Greece’s coach Otto Rehhagel noted that both passion and power would be needed for a victory that would maintain the national team’s hopes for a berth at next year’s competition in Portugal. Rehhagel and his squad arrived in Belfast yesterday from Frankfurt where they had spent several days preparing. Greece finds itself battling in Group 6. Currently fourth, the side has raked in just three points from three games. A win would keep its hopes alive for second place and a possible finals berth through a play-off encounter with the runner-up of another group. This prospect was nurtured last Saturday when Group 6’s second-placed Ukraine was kept to a 2-2 draw at home by front runner Spain. The Spaniards appear headed for top spot and an automatic qualifying berth with seven points from three games. Ukraine, in second place, has six points from four games. Armenia follows with four points from three games. Last-placed Northern Ireland has a point from three games. «The result in Kiev is favorable, as it keeps our qualifying hopes alive. A win by Ukraine would have been a bad result for us,» noted Rehhagel. The Greek squad held its first training session in Belfast and will follow up with a second round tonight at Windsor Park, where the Group 6 game will be played. Northern Ireland, now without a win in 17 months and, furthermore, goal-less for 702 minutes, sees tomorrow’s clash as an ideal chance to break its bad run. In its last game, last Saturday, the side suffered a 1-0 loss to Armenia in Yerevan after conceding the game’s deciding goal in the 86th minute. An article published in The Belfast Telegraph noted, «We need a victory, but we need to score to achieve this.» Inquiring as to what was needed to end Northern Ireland’s bad spell, another local daily, The Daily Star, described Northern Ireland’s loss in Armenia as the latest «black spot.» The match begins at 10 p.m. Greek time. Greece’s Under-21 squad, placed first in its group, would secure top spot with a win in Belfast. The Under-21’s meet tonight. «It will be a tough game,» noted Greece’s coach of the young team, Stelios Manolas, «against a side that runs and pressures a lot all over the ground.»