No surprise selections for friendly

Greece soccer coach Otto Rehhagel has resisted the temptation to experiment with his squad as the German named a largely unchanged lineup yesterday for next week’s friendly against Spain in Thessaloniki. Panionios defender Nikos Spyropoulos is the only uncapped player in the squad, although Olympiakos central defender Paraskevas Antzas has earned a recall for next Wednesday’s game. Bolton’s Stelios Giannakopoulos and Yiannis Amanatidis of Eintracht Frankfurt will miss out due to injuries. The game is being played as a testimonial to former captain Thodoris Zagorakis, who led Greece to victory at Euro 2004. It will be played at the Toumba Stadium in Thessaloniki, home of Super League club PAOK, where Zagorakis is now president. Also naming its squad yesterday, Spain recalled defenders Mariano Pernia, Pablo Ibanez and Juanito Gutierrez. Coach Luis Aragones said the three will replace Barcelona’s Carles Puyol, Sevilla’s Javi Navarro and Villarreal’s Joan Capdevila, who are out with injuries. Argentina-born Pernia and Pablo both play for Atletico Madrid, while Juanito stars for Betis. Espanol striker Luis Garcia, who scored two of his team’s three goals in the Spanish club’s 3-2 victory in a friendly game at home against Greek champions Olympiakos on Thursday night, was also back on the list for next Wednesday’s match in Greece. Valencia supplies six players for the 18-man squad. «It’s been a tough call because it’s the pre-season,» said Spain’s coach Aragones. «Some players take longer to get fit than others but from what we’ve seen, we’ve picked the fittest. The national team needs extraordinary players – that’s what soccer is about. The coach cannot play. I always try to be as fair as I can and I’ve only picked 18 players because we won’t be training much before the game.» Greece, the current leader of Group C in qualifying action for a place at next summer’s Euro 2008 finals, is scheduled to play its next qualifier in Norway on September 12. Greece leads its seven-team group with 18 points from seven games, five points clear of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey and Norway. Turkey has a game in hand. The top two teams qualify for Euro 2008, to be co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland. Spain, winner of its last four games in Group F, is second in its qualifying group for next year’s European Championship, three points behind Sweden ahead of matches against Iceland and Latvia next month. (Reuters/AP/Kathimerini)