Otto Rehhagel sticks to his winning formula for World Cup qualifiers

The Greek national soccer team’s coach, Otto Rehhagel, seems to be sticking to the formula that earned his side its sensational European title in Portugal this summer as the squad prepares for its next challenge, the World Cup qualifiers. Rehhagel has made just one change to his squad, following the recent retirement of striker Demis Nikolaidis, nowadays focused on his new role as president of the AEK club. Stepping in for him is Dimitris Salpigidis. Rehhagel has also opted for the same training facility, in Switzerland, for his squad’s final preparations. Greece opens its World Cup quest in Tirana against Albania on September 4 and then plays its second match at home, at the newly refurbished Karaiskaki Stadium, against Turkey, four days later. Also drawn in Group 2 with Greece are Denmark, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Tickets for Greece’s first home game, against Turkey – a side eager to rebound after missing Euro 2004 after coming close to reaching the final of the World Cup two years earlier – go on sale tomorrow at the Karaiskaki Stadium box office, as well as a ticket booth at Korai Square in central Athens between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Interested parties are entitled to two tickets each. State identity cards will be needed to make purchases. The Greek team’s unlikely triumph in the European championship galvanized the country and brought a frenzy of fans to greet the victors when they returned home. Though just days from the first match, Greece’s players claim they are each owed bonus fees of 1 million euros net for their triumph in Portugal. The country’s soccer federation, EPO, is believed to be unable to cover the amount. According to sources, EPO officials have discussed the issue with the State’s top sporting official, Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Orfanos.

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