Greece’s chances boosted

Greek national soccer team coach Otto Rehhagel was all smiles when he returned from Istanbul yesterday, where he watched hosts Turkey draw 2-2 against Denmark on Saturday and miss a chance to tighten their grip on second place in Group 2 of the European zone qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup. This result, achieved through an injury time Danish equalizer, puts Denmark back in contention for second place. Ukraine assured itself of first place by drawing 1-1 away at Georgia. The second-place winner will play two playoff matches against another European group runner-up. After last night’s matches, Ukraine has 24 points from 10 games, followed by Turkey’s 17. Greece and Denmark follow with 15 and 13 points, respectively, from nine games each. On Wednesday, Ukraine hosts Turkey, Denmark plays Georgia and Greece plays Kazakhstan, which has lost all nine matches it has played, away in Almaty. Any score but a win will eliminate Turkey from contention for second place which will be decided at the Denmark-Greece game on October 8, in Copenhagen. Midfielder Giorgos Karagounis said he felt confident the national team could capture second place in Group 2. «No game is easy, but we need the three points,» said Karagounis, who recently switched to Portuguese champion Benfica from Inter Milan where he was getting limited play. «The lack of games is no excuse,» said Karagounis, referring to the limited number of games by many of the Greek squad’s members who have signed with major European clubs. «This was also the case when we won Euro 2004, but we managed. Besides, we really want to regain control of our destiny for second place,» he added. Following just one point in its previous two games – a 0-0 draw in Turkey and a 1-0 home defeat against Ukraine – Greece has slipped to third place in the group. Karagounis said he believed Greece’s goal drought, which has now lasted several games, will come to an end in Kazakhstan. «When we get that first goal, there’ll be more to follow. It’s also important that we regain our strength in defense,» said Karagounis.