SPORTS

Outsiders keen to surprise

OPORTO, Lisbon (AFP) – Greece captain Theodoros Zagorakis is hoping the team can defy their status as tournament outsiders and upset hosts Portugal in the opening fixture of the European Championships. Coach Otto Rehhagel put the Greek side through its paces at a closed practice session yesterday at which he tried various formations ahead of Saturday’s opener. After Tuesday night’s training session, Zagorakis admitted that the Greeks, who are in Group A along with Portugal, Spain and Russia, had humble ambitions but would be going all-out to score an upset. «We’re all in great shape as we get closer to our first game. We played Portugal recently [a 1-1 draw earlier this year] and we have a good idea about their condition. We will be perfectly ready. We are focusing on the match ahead and that’s what we have to do now. We have reached an understanding, that whatever happens we will keep our feet on the ground. Just qualifying [for the tournament] is a success. We have promised everyone that we will do our best. It is common knowledge that this team has been through a lot since we started out in this competition,» said Zagorakis. «We all know that such a feat [of winning the title] is a difficult task. But we are here to do our best,» he added. Defender Traianos Dellas said on Greek radio station ERA Sport: «We will be looking our rivals straight in the eye. A lot depends on one-on-one play. We have to be serious. We don’t have a player who can carry off the match on his own. What we have is a harmoniously working and powerful group.» Dellas left Tuesday night’s practice session with a sore waist, though team officials did not believe this would sideline the player. Defender Costas Katsouranis did not go to Tuesday night’s practice session as a precaution due to a virus problem, while goalkeeper Fanis Kasteryiannakis went through a special individualized training program because of a slight adductor complaint. Striker Demis Nikolaidis, Greece’s top scorer with 17 goals in 50 internationals, should be ready for Saturday’s match. He practiced last night after missing almost two weeks with a calf injury. «He trained and there was no problem,» said team spokesman Michalis Tsapidis. «Day by day it is getting better and better.» Yesterday’s training session was closed to reporters, as coach Otto Rehhagel tries to prepare Greece for tough matches in Group A that include Spain on June 16 and Russia on June 20. The players and the Greek federation, EPO, have agreed that if they advance to the next round, the players would share a bonus of 2 million euros.