SPORTS

Otto Rehhagel gets two-year extension with national team

Otto Rehhagel, Greece’s national soccer team coach, has been rewarded for guiding his squad to the Euro 2004 finals with a two-year extension to his contract. The German led his team to six consecutive wins to grab the top spot in Group 6 and win automatic qualification for next year’s tournament in Portugal. «I decided to accept the offer from the Greek Football Association for the renewal because the job has been a lot of fun,» the 65-year-old told reporters yesterday. «The relationship with the FA was very good, so was the work with the players… and my wife wanted to stay here as well.» Rehhagel’s original contract – signed when he took the job 18 months ago – ran until the European Championship finals, while the new deal will take him up to the 2006 World Cup finals in his native Germany. «Taking on the 2006 World Cup challenge was also a deciding factor to renew the contract,» he said. Rehhagel’s term as coach did not start well and he was branded a villain after his team lost the opening two games of the qualifying campaign. But he has since gone on to become something of a hero for instilling discipline in the squad. «One month after qualifying, the federation carefully listened to the demand of all Greeks, so we renewed the contract,» FA President Vassilis Gagatsis said. «We are fully satisfied with his work in the past two years.» Rehhagel said Greece, who play Euro 2004 hosts Portugal in a friendly tomorrow, would be ready for the finals next June. «We had spectacular success until now, but we must now represent the country very well during the Portugal finals,» Rehhagel said. «The second step is to qualify for the World Cup.» «The result in the Portugal friendly does not matter,» he added. «The results of my team will again matter in Portugal during the finals next year.» Before taking on the job in Greece, Rehhagel coached Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen and Kaiserslautern among other clubs in three decades in the Bundesliga.