SPORTS

Olympiakos can make impact in Europe, star player insists

Olympiakos, dominant in domestic competition with the last seven league titles to show for it, has nevertheless failed to make any impact in the Champions League during its extended reign as Greek champion. This season, two rounds into the lucrative European club-level competition, the Piraeus side has shown encouraging signs of being able to stand up to formidable European sides. Olympiakos pushed both Real Sociedad and Juventus all the way in its first two games, yet lost both, narrowly, and finds itself last in Group D with zero points. Even so, team players and officials believe that the club, which is pining for European recognition, is close to raking in the needed results. In comments made to the upcoming latest edition of the Piraeus club’s official magazine, star player Christian Karembeu, who has displayed leadership qualities in his side’s performances to date, contended that Oympiakos is within striking distance of success and its getting respect in Europe. «We just need to take an extra step – I’m not joking. We began well this year and were what we needed to be. As I’ve said before, it’s a matter of mentality and our frame of mind is different from previous years,» said Karembeu. «I think that we’ve improved the team’s image. Let’s not get too greedy. You gain what you want in life step by step. You can’t suddenly demand titles. Just days ago, I was in France and people I spoke to commented on Olympiakos’s exceptional performance against Juventus. It was a beautiful feeling,» the French international added. Olympiakos lost 2-1 at home after an unsettled Juventus needed to come back from behind. In its previous game, away, a well-organized and determined Olympiakos went down 1-0 to Champions League debutante Real Sociedad, last season’s runner-up in Spain’s Primera Division, after conceding a penalty late in the game. Karembeu gave credit to Ukrainian coach Oleg Protasov, a former Soviet Union international, for playing an important role in the squad’s increased confidence with its recent European commitments. Protasov, who played with Olympiakos toward the end of his career, took over the club’s coaching position late last season and steered it to its latest Greek league title. «The coach has given us confidence. It’s very important to get on to the pitch with the feeling of knowing where you stand; to be prepared and at ease with yourself; to be able to look your opponent in the eye and think nothing. All that stems from your coach,» Karembeu noted. In its next Champions League game, on Tuesday, Olympiakos travels to Turkey for what should be a tough encounter against Galatasaray. After two rounds of play, Juventus and Real Sociedad share the lead in Group D with six points apiece. Galatasaray, which, like Olympiakos, lost to Juventus and Real Sociedad in its first two games, shares bottom spot with the Greek club on zero points. The group’s winner and runner-up join a further 14 sides from the competition’s seven other groups for knockout home-and-away encounters all the way to the final.