SPORTS

Greece’s fans show lasting devotion after Euro 2004

Highlighting the enduring devotion of fans toward the national soccer team, thanks to its unbelievable Euro 2004 triumph in Portugal last summer, tickets for Greece’s World Cup qualifier against Denmark on February 9 were snapped up within just a few hours, the local soccer federation announced yesterday. Tickets for the Karaiskaki Stadium encounter were made available yesterday. Seeking to strengthen its position in the European qualifying zone’s Group 2 after a shaky start in the campaign for a berth at next summer’s World Cup finals in Germany, Greece needs to push for victory before its anticipated capacity home crowd against the formidable Danes, steady performers in international competition. It took the Greek team four rounds of play to register its first victory, a 3-1 home result against the group’s bottom-placed Kazakhstan last November. Prior to that, Greece earned a valuable draw against Group 2’s early leader Ukraine in Kiev after being held to a scoreless draw by Turkey in Athens. In its opening game, Greece lost 2-1 against a frenzied Albanian side in Tirana last September. Greece’s five points from four games has the side placed fourth in the group, a point behind Denmark, Turkey and Albania, all with six points. Ukraine leads with 11 points but has played an additional fifth game, as has Turkey. «Ticket sale procedures went smoothly and the federation [EPO] would like to thank the national team’s fans, who, once again, rushed to show their support for the European champions,» EPO announced yesterday. Greece coach Otto Rehhagel, who just days ago was named last year’s best national-level coach by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, has called up central defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos to the squad for the match against Denmark. Kyrgiakos has made headlines in the past week for his transfer to leading Scottish club Glasgow Rangers. He is one of 14 Greek squad members currently playing club-level competition abroad. The squad is scheduled to gather Sunday week, three days ahead of its clash against Denmark. Like Greece, Denmark, has also astonished fans at the European Championships. Even though Denmark has traditionally enjoyed a finer reputation than Greece in European and international soccer, it nevertheless produced something of a miracle for its upset title victory back in 1992. The Danes, who replaced war-ravaged Yugoslavia in the tournament, went all the way to win the title. Amusingly, many of the Danish squad’s players needed to be called back from summer breaks at exotic locations.