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Looking for morale booster in Germany

Following last week’s disappointing 1-0 home defeat against Ukraine which dampened its chances of making it to next year’s World Cup finals, Greece will be looking to boost its morale with a solid showing at the upcoming Confederations Cup in Germany. Greece, which goes to this tournament as European champion, plays its first match against World Cup holder Brazil in Leipzig this Thursday night. As was suggested by Greece’s shock triumph at Euro 2004, coach Otto Rehhagel has the ability to get the best out of his players against renowned opponents. In comments to the German press, he praised Brazil as a traditional powerhouse, but added that his side would not be intimidated by the five-time world champion’s glittering reputation. «Brazil guarantees that the people will enjoy attractive soccer. You don’t get to play against Brazil every day. This is a motivation in itself. A comparison between our team and Brazil’s is not possible. We have one national team. Based on their country’s population [110 million] alone, they can turn up with five teams of equal standard. There’s a difference, even if you look at it in terms of population. They’re 10 times bigger as a country,» remarked Rehhagel. «That’s not going to stop us. We’re going to fight with all our might. Some players will be missing, but we have other solutions to present. We’ve never been short of power and passion, and we won’t be short of it now,» he added. Greece captain Theodoros Zagorakis will miss the first two games as he is needed by Bologna in an Italian relegation playoff. Key defender Traianos Dellas, who has been sidelined by injury in recent weeks, will also miss the tournament, while fellow central defender Michalis Kapsis, who was injured in last week’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine, will miss the first two games. In addition to Brazil, Greece also faces Mexico and Japan, which is already celebrating being the first nation to qualify for next year’s World Cup. The tournament’s other group is made up of Argentina, also already through to next year’s World Cup; Australia, Tunisia and host Germany. Kicking off on Wednesday with two matches – Argentina-Tunisia in Cologne and Germany-Australia in Frankfurt – the competition is in bad need of a positive spin. Hated by European clubs because it stops tired players from taking an off-season break, the championship, being staged in Germany as a warmup to next year’s World Cup, has few friends outside of FIFA. The world governing body took a competition that began as a four-nation event to promote soccer in the Middle East and turned it into a mini version of the World Cup, with the winners of each of its six confederations joining the World Cup holder and the host. Its lowest point came two years ago in France when Cameroon star Marc-Vivien Foe collapsed and died. Although his death was the result of heart failure, critics suggested it may not have happened had he been able to rest between seasons. Such is the unpopularity of the event in Europe that Germany and Italy declined to take part in 2003 because their players were too tired at the end of the domestic seasons. This year’s competition kicks off a week after most countries played World Cup qualifying games. With just a short break before European league and cup competitions begin, there’s little time for the players to recover and revive. However, some of the sport’s stars can now polish the competition’s image. Although Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos have been excused, Brazil has sent FIFA player of the year Ronaldinho, Kaka, Adriano and new attacking talent Robinho. Argentina has goal-scoring star Carlos Tevez on its roster, along with talented midfielder Javier Saviola and defenders Walter Samuel, Javier Zanetti and Gabriel Heinze. But Juan Sebastian Veron, Hernan Crespo and Robert Ayala are among the big names left out. Of the 12 World Cup venues, only five are in use for the Confederations Cup. There are no games in Munich, which hosts the opening World Cup match, nor at Berlin’s Olympic stadium, which will stage the final. The Confederations Cup final is set for Frankfurt’s Waldstadion on June 29. (Kathimerini/AP)