Zagorakis retirement on hold

Greece captain Theodoros Zagorakis, who was considering retiring after his team’s European Championship qualifier against Norway in Athens this Saturday, has also been called up for the match against Bosnia four days later, officials said yesterday. The 34-year-old, who has a record 119 caps for his country, had repeatedly hinted he was ready to end his 12-year career with the national team following the game against the Group C leaders. «He has been called up for both matches, so he is at the disposal of the coach for both of them and not just one,» a Greek soccer federation official said yesterday. Zagorakis is expected to start against Norway in front of a a sell-out 33,000 crowd in the Karaiskaki Stadium. Greece, the 2004 European champions, unconvincingly won their first qualifier away against Moldova with a late goal, while Norway are the early pacemakers with two wins. Manchester City striker Giorgos Samaras and forward Fanis Gekas of Bochum were also named. Both had been dropped for Greece’s opening win over Moldova in Chisinau on September 2. On the club-level circuit, latest developments yesterday indicated that the prospects of Red Star Belgrade coach Dusan Bajevic joining Panathinaikos had faded considerably. Bajevic, a star striker with the former Yugoslavia and Athens club AEK during his playing days, who went on to lead the Greek club as well as Olympiakos and PAOK to several league and cup titles as a manager, requested more time from Panathinaikos on Sunday. When the negotiating sides met yesterday morning for talks, the chances of Bajevic’s return to Greece appeared to have collapsed, reports said. Panathinaikos, which sacked its recently hired Swedish coach Hans Backe after the Athens club was held to a 1-1 home draw in a first-leg, first-round UEFA Cup tie by uncelebrated Ukrainian club Metalurh Zaporizhya – the Greek club advanced to the next round following a 1-0 win in the return leg – has apparently begun looking elsewhere for a new coach. Reports said the team’s administration was focusing abroad. Sources said Bajevic felt eager to take on Panathinaikos’s coaching job but the Belgrade club’s administration was not willing to settle for a premature end to the 58-year-old’s contract. The Greek-Serb coach is dissatisfied by his current administration’s decision to sell most of its leading players last summer. (Reuters, AP, Kathimerini)

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