Rehhagel rewards top scorer

The national soccer team’s German coach Otto Rehhagel has called up under-21 striker Dimitris Papadopoulos in a 22-man squad announced yesterday for a friendly against Portugal this Saturday in Aveiro, north of Lisbon. Papadopoulos of Panathinaikos is one of two additions to the squad that beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in Athens last month to clinch a berth in the European Championships in Portugal next June. AEK midfielder Vassilis Lakis, who returns to the squad after sustaining a cruciate ligament injury in September, is the other addition. He made a scoring return on his first league start since the injury, with AEK thrashing Akratitos 7-2 on Sunday. Papadopoulos is top scorer in the Greek first division with seven goals after moving back to Greece from English first division Burnley. Portugal, which qualified for next summer’s finals automatically as the host nation, will be without Benfica midfielder Armando Petit, who will be out of action for about a month because of an injured left knee, his club announced yesterday. Petit was hurt in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Alverca in the Portuguese premier league. He was in the 2002 World Cup squad and had been called up for the first time since coach Luiz Felipe Scolari became national coach this year. While Greece and Portugal test their strengths in a presumably friendly spirit this Saturday at 11 p.m. Greek time, 10 other teams that had ended second in their respective Euro 2004 qualifying groups will do serious battle in first-leg playoffs for their finals berths. Spain, which was deprived of Group 6’s top spot by the less favored Greece, has drawn against Norway in its home-and-away playoff. The Spaniards begin their quest at home before traveling to Norway for the second leg. Scotland must overcome the Netherlands for its place; Croatia will battle against neighboring Slovenia; the Russians will take on the Welsh, and, in the final pair, Latvia begins its bid at home against a dangerous Turkish side, fourth in last year’s World Cup finals. (Reuters, Kathimerini)