Greece will rely on Kostas Mitroglou to fire them into the knockout stage of the World Cup finals and after a slow start to his international career, and now at Fulham, the striker wants to show his true worth in Brazil.
Known as ‘Mitrogoal’ and ‘Pistolero’ (gunslinger) by Greek fans for his gun-toting goal celebrations as well as his strike rate, the forward left Olympiakos Piraeus for Fulham in January for 12 million pounds.
He was bought by the relegated Premier League club before current boss Felix Magath arrived at Fulham in February and the German was somewhat unimpressed with the previously reliable goal-scorer.
Since signing, Mitroglou has made just one start and one substitute appearance for Fulham and was not even training with the first team because of concerns over a nagging knee injury and his fitness levels.
Magath said in early April: “If you buy a player like Mitroglou, you are not just thinking about having him for a few weeks but for the long term, so it is not a mistake.
“He is a very good player, who has scored for his country and in the Champions League. We hope he will be fit soon but you never know.”
The 26-year-old was born in Greece but grew up in Germany after his family moved there when he was a boy.
He had a spell as a youngster at MSV Duisburg before moving to Borussia Moenchengladbach, where his flair for goals gained him a spot in the first team as a teenager. After a season he moved back to Greece with Olympiakos.
As well as an impressive strike rate, Mitroglou also showed maturity in leading the Greek champions’ attack and it will be fascinating to see how he eventually adapts to life in the second tier of English football if he gets the chance.
Somewhat media-shy, Mitroglou hit the headlines by becoming the first Greek to score a Champions League hat-trick with a treble for Olympiakos at Anderlecht in October.
He scored 21 goals in 23 appearances for club and country this season before joining Fulham. Though not the fastest of forwards, Mitroglou’s key attributes are his intelligent movement off the ball, physical strength and a powerful shot from long range.
The forward was not a favourite of former Greece coach Otto Rehhagel and even the first few years under current boss Fernando Santos were difficult.
But any doubts about his ability to lead the Greek attack disappeared in the first half of the season, especially after Mitroglou scored three goals in a two-leg playoff victory over Romania that sealed Greece’s ticket to Brazil.
Much will depend on Mitroglou’s return to form and fitness if Greece are to emerge from Group C, which also includes Colombia, Asian champions Japan and the Ivory Coast. [Reuters]