Aging squad easily beaten

With over two weeks to go before the opening Euro 2008 qualifier against Moldova, Greece could have opted for a quiet friendly, as Switzerland did with Lichtenstein. Instead, they booked a full spanking session with England at the wet Old Trafford pitch in Manchester on Wednesday night. For the superstitious – and there are many among soccer fans – the 4-0 drubbing Greece received may even be a good omen, reminding them of a similar defeat at the hands of the Netherlands a few days before Euro 2004. Alas, the reigning European champions are no longer the same team that shocked opponents back them, even though most of the players are still around. With the formerly unyielding defense, which had neutralized real superstars such as Thierry Henry, Jan Koller, Raul and Luis Figo, letting in – twice – Peter Crouch, it appears that many players are simply lingering on. Coach Otto Rehhagel’s obstinacy of working with the same players may be becoming counterproductive, and while he made six substitutions yesterday, four of them at halftime with the score already 4-0, he kept people such as 35-year-old goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis throughout the match. The more knowledgeable fans correctly interpreted victory in Euro 2004 as a one-off miracle, with no expectations of a repetition. Still, it would be a little sad to see this squad hang on long enough to turn into a laughingstock.

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