Volleyball cup begins tonight

Local volleyball’s Final 8 tournament for the Greek Cup begins today in Patras, western Greece, with two of the competition’s four knockout quarterfinals. The Greek league’s top eight clubs at the halfway mark of the season qualified for this cup tournament. The action begins with Iraklis, the defending champion, taking on newly promoted AEK, one of the season’s surprise performers so far, currently in fifth place. Then Panellinios meets league leader Panathinaikos, a three-time cup winner. «The objective is very clear for us. Success for Panathinaikos means winning the cup and failure means not winning it,» said the club’s coach, Francisco Dos Santos. «I can’t make any predictions about who the finalists will be, but it’s clear that I want my team to be one of the two finalists,» he added. Panathinaikos has not won the Greek Cup since 1985. Iraklis, a runner-up in the Champions League over the past two seasons, has won the past three successive Greek Cups for a total of five in the club’s history. In the tournament’s two other quarterfinals, both scheduled for tomorrow, PAOK, one of the more inconsistent performers in domestic competition this year, meets Lamia, another unsteady performer this season, which lost its coach just days ago. Nikos Neofytos, the man who led the provincial team to the country’s top-tier league, resigned last weekend. His successor remains unknown. In the remaining quarterfinal, Olympiakos, which last won the cup in 2001 and has had to weather numerous coaching and player changes this season, takes on Patras, currently sixth in the league. The Piraeus club lies second in the league. The draw for the cup’s semifinals will take place tomorrow following the fourth quarterfinal. Both semifinals are scheduled for Friday with the final to be held on Saturday. Organizers have reported high demand for tournament tickets.