SPORTS

Injuries strike Greek squad

Until recently, all seemed calm for the Greek squad ahead of the Euro 2004 soccer tournament in Portugal, which kicks off in less than a fortnight, but problems have now begun to accumulate for coach Otto Rehhagel. Besides the concern of Greece’s two recent successive losses in international friendly matches against the Netherlands and Poland, both away, following a 15-game undefeated stretch, the national side’s German coach also has to grapple with a growing injury list. Just days ago, Rehhagel also had to deal with growing tension between Nikolaidis and former AEK teammate Vassilis Tsiartas, following a spillover of club-level differences into the national squad. Injured star striker Demis Nikolaidis will not be able to train for a 10-day period, which leaves him stranded until the eve of the competition beginning June 12. Greece meets host Portugal in the tournament’s opening game. Also injured is key defender Yourkas Seitaridis. Coaches have until today to declare changes in their Euro 2004 squads. Rehhagel, reports said yesterday, does not intend to name a replacement for Nikolaidis. «Nikolaidis’s injury complicates things as do the rest of the injuries that have struck the side,» noted Rehhagel yesterday from Switzerland, where his squad is gearing up for Euro 2004. «But we’ve decided to bring along these players to the pre-tournament warmup and hope to travel with them to Portugal,» he added Besides Portugal, Greece will also face Spain and Russia in Group A. Despite the injury setbacks, Rehhagel remained optimistic about Greece’s chances of a respectable showing following a woeful debacle last time the team found itself under soccer’s international spotlight, at the World Cup in 1994. Greece was pounded in all three first-round games for a quick return to Athens. «The atmosphere at training is good. The injuries have spoiled the mood slightly, but that’s all part of the game,» Rehhagel said. Squad member Giorgos Georgiadis, a midfielder at Olympiakos, also appeared calm. «We’re all hoping that the boys will recover as soon as possible,» he told reporters.