SPORTS

Greece and Denmark ready to fight it out

Greece and Denmark will both be anxiously looking for only their second victory in five games when the two injury-hit teams meet in a World Cup qualifier tonight. Having lost ground early in their first four Group 2 matches, they will be eager to close the gap with leaders Ukraine, who lead the pack with 11 points from five matches – and who could stretch that with a win over Albania today. «There is no other result for us than victory, a draw is just not good enough,» Greek midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos said. «We have to go away with the three points if we want to keep our chances for qualifying for the World Cup alive.» European champions Greece, in fifth place with five points following a defeat, two draws and only one win, will be without their talented midfielder Vassilis Tsiartas, who is injured. Defender Michalis Kapsis and striker Dimitris Papadopoulos are also doubtful. Team captain Theodoros Zagorakis and midfielder Angelos Basinas have also picked up minor injuries, but both are expected to start. Coach Otto Rehhagel is likely to stick with his 4-4-2 formation that so far has served him well, bringing on midfielder Costas Katsouranis in a more defensive role in the place of Kapsis and keeping Angelos Haristeas and Zisis Vryzas up front. «This is a decisive game. I have respect for Denmark. They’re a good team and most of the players play major-league European soccer. But I look mostly at my team, not the opponent,» Rehhagel said. Commenting on the value of team effort, the most important element behind Greece’s astonishing Euro 2004 triumph in Portugal, Rehhagel played down the individual worth of star players. «Key players in teams don’t exist. For example, Ronaldinho missed a penalty against Atletico Madrid last Sunday and [his side] Barcelona lost the game,» Rehhagel remarked. «Denmark has always possessed good players, like the Laudrup brothers,» he added. The German coach said that tonight’s anticipated capacity crowd at Karaiskaki Stadium would help the national team’s players rid themselves of the crucial encounter’s pre-match anxiety. Denmark, also surprise European champions in 1992, who are second with six points after one win and three draws, have already lost midfielders Thomas Rasmussen and Claus Jensen as well as defender Thomas Helveg to injury. But coach Morten Olsen said Greece was the team facing the greater pressure in the game. «They are not playing as European champions here. That’s the name of the game. They have to prove what they are worth,» Olsen said. Commenting on his rival coach for the evening, Olsen described Rehhagel as a «realist who can work wonders with the manpower available to him,» as was the case in Portugal, he noted. Olsen went on to say: «We’re both European champions, but all that now belongs to the past. This is a different competition and we’re both fighting to qualify.» Probable teams: Greece: Antonis Nikopolidis; Yourkas Seitaridis, Traianos Dellas, Costas Katsouranis, Takis Fyssas; Angelos Basinas, Theodoros Zagorakis, Stelios Giannakopoulos, Giorgos Karagounis; Zisis Vryzas, Angelos Haristeas. Denmark: Thomas Sorensen; Niclas Jensen, Per Kroldrup, Steven Lustu, Brian Priske; Thomas Gravesen, Christian Poulsen, Daniel Jensen; Martin Jorgensen, Dennis Rommedahl, Jon Dahl Tomasson. Referee: Pierluigi Collina (Italy). (Reuters, Kathimerini).