Striker to miss campaign’s end

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel has dropped striker Angelos Charisteas from his squad for the national team’s two remaining Euro 2008 qualifiers, this Saturday against Malta in Athens, followed by the campaign’s finale in Hungary on November 21. Already through to the finals, to be co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland next summer, Rehhagel’s team needs just one more point from its two remaining qualifiers to secure top spot in Group C. The accomplishment will not give Greece an additional advantage in the draw to determine the tournament’s groups, but nevertheless offers some prestige. As the defending champions, Greece will be placed in Pot A with all the tournament’s top seeds, meaning that it will avoid the powerhouse teams – at least theoretically – in the competition’s first stage. With Greece already through to the finals, the main focus in Group C is whether Norway or Turkey will secure the group’s other qualifying berth. They clash in Norway this Saturday with the home team holding a two-point lead over Turkey. With 10 of 12 games played, Greece is on 25 points, Norway on 20 and Turkey on 18. The group’s remaining four sides are out of contention for a finals berth. Despite Greece’s certainty of a place at the Euro 2008 finals, Rehhagel has resisted the temptation to experiment with new players, except for Panathinaikos striker Vangelis Mantzios. The Greek soccer federation is planning pre-game festivities for this coming Saturday’s game against Malta, the national team’s last home match in this successful qualifying campaign.