Rehhagel loses in-form striker

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel has lost in-form striker Dimitris Papadopoulos and midfielder Panayiotis Lagos for Saturday’s Euro 2008 qualifier against Norway due to injuries. Rehhagel responded by summoning defenders Christos Patsatzoglou and Michalis Kapsis, who have been out of action for months. Kapsis, however, was excluded just hours later yesterday after his club’s coach, Trond Sollied of Olympiakos, moved in to inform the national team’s coach that the defender was still on the recovery path from injury. Injecting some mystery into his failed national team call-up, Kapsis, commenting on local radio yesterday, noted: «Olympiakos won’t let me join the national team. I don’t want to elaborate because I will be punished. I want to thank Mr Rehhagel for inviting me to the national team, despite the fact that I haven’t been playing. I hope a solution will be found.» Kapsis, a star performer for Greece in central defense at the national team’s Euro 2004 triumph, has not played a match for Olympiakos in months because of nagging injuries. Patsatzoglou, a former regular with the national team, only recently returned to club soccer after consecutive operations sidelined him for more than two years. Rehhagel has also recalled strikers Giorgos Samaras of Manchester City and Fanis Gekas of Bochum. Samaras lost his position on the Greek squad after failing to make an impact during Greece’s 4-0 thrashing by England in the national team’s final friendly match ahead of the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. But he has been impressive with Manchester City. Norway are top of Group C after two wins, while Greece edged Moldova 1-0 in their only match so far. The group also features Bosnia, Hungary, Malta and Turkey. The top two teams qualify for the finals, to be held in Austria and Switzerland in June 2008. Looking ahead to Saturday’s game at the Karaiskaki Stadium in the capital’s port city of Piraeus, midfielder Costas Katsouranis, a former AEK player who joined Benfica last summer, told reporters: «We have to go into this game and show from the first minute that we are determined to win. This is an extremely crucial match.» (Reuters, Kathimerini)