SPORTS

Beating Denmark is Greece’s only option

Greece will need to defeat Denmark in Athens next Wednesday night if the European champion is to keep alive its hopes of a place at the Word Cup soccer finals in Germany this coming summer. The national team currently lies fourth in the European qualifying zone’s Group 2 after a subdued start. In its opening match last September, Greece’s first official game following its sensational triumph at Euro 2004 a few weeks earlier, the national team went down 2-1 to Albania in Tirana. Greece then registered two consecutive draws, at home to Turkey and away to Ukraine, before landing its campaign’s first victory, 3-1, against lowly Kazakhstan in Athens. Panathinaikos’s recently retired striker Krzysztof Warzycha, in an interview published on the Greek soccer federation’s official website yesterday, noted the encounter’s importance. «Following its loss of points in the opening games, Greece must win. If this isn’t accomplished, the chances of qualifying will be reduced drastically,» Warzycha stressed in the interview. «Let’s not forget that the Danes will go into the match with the same objective, so the result will count considerably,» the retired Polish scoring machine added. Warzycha, who continues to live and work in Greece, said he believed the national team was beginning to find its stride after the slow start to its campaign. «In the more recent games, Greece’s players look like they’re finding their way and adapting to the high demands of these qualifying games,» said Warzycha. «Greece will keep getting better with time. The players will have more games behind them as league competition continues to progress, and their level of preparation will have heightened. Conditions have changed ever since Greece’s title victory at Euro 2004. Everybody wants to defeat Greece, including the Danes, who have high expectations of themselves. The ‘favorite’ tag imposed on Greece has added pressure to its efforts… but I believe that Greece will ensure the result it needs with the support of fans who will once again fill the stadium,» he added. Warzycha said Denmark had lost some of its older spark, but needed to be faced with total seriousness by the Greek team. PSV defender Kasper Boegelund and Fulham midfielder Claus Jensen were recalled by Denmark coach Morten Olsen yesterday in his 20-man squad for next week’s qualifier against Greece. Although the domestic Super League tournament has yet to start, Olsen also selected Martin Retov and Morten Skoubo for the European Group 2 game on February 9 in Athens, saying several of the team’s core overseas players were out with injuries. The team includes leading players Jon Dahl Tomasson of AC Milan, Martin Jorgensen of Fiorentina, and Thomas Gravesen, who recently transferred to Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid. Denmark and Greece last met in World Cup qualifying in 1997, and drew 0-0. Denmark lies equally second in Group 2 with Turkey and Albania. All are on six points, one ahead of Greece, but Turkey and the group’s front runner, Ukraine, on 11 points, have played an additional fifth match. (Kathimerini, AP)