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Spain’s lineup under wraps

Spain and Greece will both be looking to move a step closer to the last eight at Euro 2004 by building on their winning starts in Group A when they meet here today. The Greeks top Group A with Spain on three points after their stunning 2-1 victory over Portugal. Spain edged a dogged Russian side 1-0, in its first game of the 16-team tournament. Portugal’s defeat may have come as a surprise to many, but not Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres, whose Spanish side finished second behind the Greeks in their qualifying group after losing 1-0 at home to Otto Rehhagel’s men last June. «There are no gifts at this tournament,» said the exciting forward who is on the wish list of many European coaches this summer. «We have got three important points and nothing else. It would be wrong to think we will win the group just because we won our first match.» Greece, on the other hand, have realized how close they are to their first European Championship quarterfinals and are now ready to book their place, coach Otto Rehhagel said yesterday. «We are the outsiders against Spain but we want to use this opportunity that has presented itself,» he told reporters before the team’s final practice session. «The boys have realized what an opportunity they have, they are professionals and are extremely disciplined. For the match against Spain they know we have to keep the mistakes ratio to a minimum,» he added. Greece beat Spain in Saragossa last year on their way to automatic qualification for the tournament, leaving the Spaniards to face Norway in a two-legged playoff. «In that match we played well but we were also a bit lucky,» Rehhagel said. He said celebrations following their sensational opening victory only lasted a few hours with the team back at work the next day. «We enjoyed the day after the win but a few hours later we were again focused so that we can be in full fighting spirit at the start tomorrow [today],» he said. After weeks of preparations dogged by injuries, Rehhagel finally looks to have all 23 players in good shape. Most likely reflecting Greece’s improving international stature, Spain coach Inaki Saez, breaking with custom, refused yesterday to give any clue of his team’s starting lineup the day before the side’s match against Greece. «In these championships you don’t give away anything,» said Saez, adding that his advisers had urged him not to announce the lineup after training on the eve of the match. «This Greek team depends on whether you pick certain players or others, so we’re going to keep up the uncertainty, just like the Russians did, and give the team 30 minutes before the match,» he said. He denied that he had made the decision not to announce his lineup because Spain was nervous about Greece, which had beaten Spain in the qualifying group the last time they met. (AFP, AP, Reuters)