Unconvincing win in Moldova

Greece, looking for a berth at the Euro 2008 soccer finals in Austria and Switzerland to defend its title triumph two summers ago, gets a bye in today’s second round of group play. Group C’s six other teams all play tonight. Turkey, which had a bye on opening day, hosts Malta, a 5-2 loser at home against Bosnia-Herzegovina last Saturday. Norway, which opened its qualifying campaign with an impressive 4-1 win against Hungary in Budapest, greets Moldova. Hungary travels to Bosnia-Herzegovina for tonight’s other Group C match. Undoubtedly better than the lackluster home side, Greece nevertheless struggled to defeat Moldova, 1-0, in the opening round. The Greek team, disappointed by its failure to reach last summer’s World Cup finals as the reigning European champion, needs to shape up if it is to make the Euro 2008 finals. Despite their victory, Otto Rehhagel’s men failed to convince during Saturday’s encounter in Moldova. It should be pointed out that Greece’s level of play was below the inadequate standards it reached during the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign. However, it must be noted that celebrated national outfits have, in the past, had a tough time winning in Moldova. Rehhagel emerged optimistic, pointing out that Greece has begun this campaign with victory. In his post-match remarks, Rehhagel noted that Greece was better than Moldova throughout Saturday’s game, missed a penalty, and, in the end, won. He reminded that there were 11 qualifiers to go. «We begun with victory, while last year [in World Cup qualifiers] we lost against Albania in our first game. We’ve already started thinking about our game against Norway,» Rehhagel said, referring to a third-round game in Athens on October 7. Rehhagel was planning to attend tonight’s game between Norway and Moldova as part of the squad’s preparations. His assistant, Yiannis Topalidis, will be stationed in Bosnia-Herzegovina for the home team’s clash against Hungary, while another squad scout will be in Turkey for the home team’s game against Malta. A former Greece coach, Alkettas Panagoulias, who led the national team to the World Cup finals for the first time in the country’s history, in 1994 – the national team failed dismally – described Greece’s game against Moldova as satisfactory. «It wasn’t a bad game by Greece in Moldova. Especially in the second half, following Rehhagel’s successful substitutions, our team performed its duty and got the result it deserved,» said Panagoulias. «I got scared when we missed the penalty, which influenced us, but the boys showed they still had the power and faith needed for victory… Rehhagel is a shrewd person and I think he knows better than anyone else about what is needed to lead Greece to the qualifying group’s top spot.» The group’s first- and second-placed teams go on to the finals.