SPORTS

Greece through to Euro 2008 with the most points overall

Despite a mediocre performance Wednesday night, Greece, a Euro 2008 finals qualifier two rounds earlier, managed to rebound from an early one-goal deficit to defeat Hungary 2-1 in Budapest for a winning finale to its impressive qualifying campaign which produced 10 wins, one draw, and a solitary defeat. Greece’s 31 points bettered the tallies of all teams from all seven groups. Italy, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Romania, winners of their respective groups, ended with the next best records, 29 points apiece. Statistical supremacy aside, Wednesday’s win in Budapest proved decisive for Greece’s FIFA ranking, which will help in its bid to make it to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa. Greece goes into the draw this Sunday, which will determine the qualifying groups leading to the World Cup, as one of the Europe’s top nine teams, in Pot A. Subsequently, Greece will avoid being drawn against Pot A’s eight other teams, Europe’s strongest. These are Italy, Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Portugal, the Netherlands and Croatia. On Sunday week, Greece also finds out who its group rivals will be for Euro 2008’s opening stage. Greece will be drawn from Pot A, along with Austria and Switzerland, the co-hosts, and the Netherlands. «I now want my players to rest and be in good condition, both mentally and physically,» said Greece coach Otto Rehhagel, who became the national team’s longest-serving coach Wednesday night with 75 games. He has won 40 of these, drawn 16 and lost 19 over a six-year tenure. «I can’t keep repeating myself every day. Right now I’m focused on the Euro 2008 finals and how to prepare the team for good results,» remarked the 69-year old coach, responding to reporter queries on whether he would extend his contract with Greece. It expires following the Euro 2008 finals. Rehhagel will attend Sunday’s World Cup qualifying draw in Durban, South Africa.