SPORTS

Win needed to bolster hopes for first place

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel said the European champions will need to improve if they want to beat Ukraine tonight in a World Cup qualifying match. The Greeks drew 0-0 at Turkey on Saturday to stay in second place, but now trail Ukraine by five points. The Ukrainians topped Kazakhstan 2-0. «If we want to reach the first position we must beat Ukraine,» Rehhagel said yesterday. «We’ll definitely have to play better than we did against Turkey.» The eight group winners and two best runners-up qualify directly for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany. «Both teams have a similar ability level, but we must make the most of our home advantage,» Rehhagel said. «It will be tough work. We will have to play a great game. We will have the backing of our supporters.» Defender Yiannis Goumas said a win would at least consolidate Greece’s second-place standing. «We cannot afford any other result than victory against Ukraine,» Goumas said. «It will put us in contention for the top spot and guarantee that we at least secure second place.» Rehhagel will be without suspended midfielder Costas Katsouranis and injured defender Traianos Dellas for the match at Karaiskaki Stadium. Captain Theodoros Zagorakis, however, will return from suspension. Sotiris Kyrgiakos is expected to replace Dellas. The previous clash between the two teams last October in Kiev ended 1-1 after a late Greek equalizer by midfielder Vassilis Tsiartas. After a poor start in qualifying – when it lost 2-1 in Albania – Greece has bounced back by winning four matches and drawing three. Rehhagel denied that fatigue would be a factor against Ukraine. «We must get that out of our heads. There is no question of fatigue,» he said. «You only get tired if you spend the whole night out at a club.» Ukraine will again rely on the goal-scoring talents of Andriy Shevchenko. Injured midfielder Oleh Shelayev is unlikely to play. (AP)