SPORTS

Relaxed coach wants victory

Greece secured its place in the Euro 2008 finals last month with two rounds of qualifying play remaining, but the national soccer team’s job is not yet done. The outcome of tonight’s concluding qualifier against Hungary in Budapest is likely to affect Greece’s FIFA ranking, which will influence the draw to determine the European zone’s qualifying groups leading to the 2010 World Cup finals. The draw, to be held in Durban, South Africa, the major sporting event’s host, will take place on Sunday. A win in Budapest tonight would assure Greece of a top-nine FIFA ranking among European teams and a Pot A spot, along with the continent’s traditional powerhouses. These will each be distributed into one of the European zone’s nine qualifying groups for the World Cup. Though there is something to be gained by Greece from tonight’s game in Budapest, coach Otto Rehhagel acknowledged that his team’s position in Group C, seven points ahead of second-placed Turkey, was a privileged one. «We’re glad that we’re not playing for a qualifying berth against Hungary and that victory is not necessary,» said Rehhagel. «Several lineup changes will be made to give younger squad members with little playing time an opportunity. But, even so, we want to win,» he continued. Greece will be missing defenders Traianos Dellas and Vassilis Torosidis, suspended and injured, respectively. «The number of lineup changes, and their nature, will be decided before the game. For example, Dellas and Torosidis are absent, so their positions will need to be filled by younger players,» said Rehhagel. Commenting on tonight’s opponent, second from last in Group C with 12 points from 11 games, and a 3-0 loser away against Moldova last Saturday, Rehhagel said he expected a better and «more passionate side» tonight. Retired Hungarian star Lajos Detari, who spent a two-year tenure with Olympiakos in the late 80s, congratulated Greece for its Euro 2008 finals qualification while also rating it Group C’s most superior team, with a difference, during an interview with state radio yesterday. «Greece has a good team, good players and a great coach,» said Detari. As for the Hungarian team, Detari said that it wanted to win after last weekend’s 3-0 loss in Moldova.