Greece central defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos remains doubtful for the national team’s do-or-die play-offs with Croatia after the rather superficial injury that forced him out of last Saturday’s Borussia Dortmund game. In view of this and the ban on Costas Manolas, coach Michael Skibbe has called up two more central defenders.
Greece travels to Zagreb on Thursday for the first leg of the home-and-away World Cup qualification matches without Manolas who last week received a one-game ban from FIFA for deliberately seeking a booking at the Cyprus vs Greece qualifier last month.
Papastathopoulos was substituted at the Borussia vs Bayern Munich Bundesliga clash, but the scan on Sokratis’s leg showed no significant problems. He arrived in Athens on Sunday and will undergo mild treatment aiming to take part in the matches on Thursday in Croatia and on Sunday in Piraeus.
In view of this Greece’s German manager invited on Sunday an extra couple of center backs, SPAL’s Marios Oikonomou and Panathinaikos’s Dimitris Kolovetsios to the national team. Experienced right-back Vassilis Torosodis is also doubtful.
Skibbe knows ever so well the significance of the national team’s best line, its defense, and the situation with the absence of Roma’s Manolas would be aggravated further if Papastathopoulos is out too, particularly for the first leg in Croatia.
“You can have more defensive tactics if you’re playing away and then you can look at what’s going on in the second match,” Skibbe had told FIFA.com after the play-off draw in October.
“Playing offensive [soccer, Greece is] quite good, but most of the time we are good at defending, so we will see what happens on the pitch,” he added.