SPORTS

Greece out to display its worth

MELBOURNE (AP) – Australia coach Guus Hiddink expects Greece to discard the defense-oriented game plan that won it the European soccer title and vent some frustration on his World Cup-bound team. Australia opens its three-match World Cup preparation against Euro 2004 champion Greece in Melbourne today (to be televised on NET at 12.30 p.m. today), its only match down under since a qualifying win over Uruguay in Sydney last November. The Greeks, who failed to qualify for the World Cup, have a full-strength squad in Australia and are starting preparations to defend their European title in 2008. Hiddink is predicting a physical, free-flowing encounter in front of an expected record crowd of 95,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Australia’s biggest previous soccer crowd was 88,101 in Sydney for an Australia-World Stars team match in 1999. The biggest soccer international crowd in Australia was 85,022 at Melbourne in 1997 for the national team’s World Cup qualifying loss to Iran. «I think [Greece] are disappointed not being on a world stage,» Hiddink said yesterday. «I think they’re looking for revenge, which makes them more dangerous and probably a bit more attacking than they were in Euro 2004. If so, we have to cope with that.» He also said the match would give him a good gauge of what stage his squad is at. «It’s a difficult game to play. Greece is at full strength – every big player is here. And they’re not in the world championship, so they’ll want to show the world that they’re the champion of Europe [and deserve] respect.» Greece coach Otto Rehhagel is expected to stick primarily with the 4-5-1 system he used with great success at Euro 2004. «I’d like to experiment tomorrow, but having said that, I also want to win,» Rehhagel said. «I don’t want it to get too complicated. Although there’s not the pressure to win like you would [have] in a normal qualifying game… there’s a massive crowd of Greek supporters [and] we have to leave a good impression.» Rehhagel said he hoped the passionate support his team drew in Melbourne would inspire a win over Australia.