SPORTS

Ex-champion back and planning for the future

The Greece soccer team returned from Austria on Thursday to a low-key reception after its three losses in as many matches at the European Championship. On Wednesday, Greece lost 2-1 to Spain, despite taking a first-half lead in the 42nd minute through an Angelos Charisteas header. Second-half goals by Ruben de la Red and Daniel Guiza ensured Spain’s perfect record in the group stage, leaving Greece with the worst record in the competition: No points and just one goal scored. Significant changes are now being planned in the national team’s setup ahead of the qualification group games for the 2010 World Cup. The head of the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO), Vassilis Gagatsis is considering hiring a team manager (a link between the players and the coach), whose exact competencies remain to be defined. Reports suggest that the favorite for the post is former Greece defender Takis Fyssas. He was in Austria along with the team for the European Championship and appears positive towards that prospect. The Panathinaikos left-back, who is 35 years old, is considering putting an end to his playing career. His experience from playing abroad (in Scotland) may come in useful for this post. He is now expecting an official proposal by the federation. Gagatsis said in a recent interview that he had considered former Greece captain Thodoris Zagorakis for the post, but the current PAOK president was rejected by coach Otto Rehhagel. Another change is likely to be the hiring of goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis, who has just quit international football, as a goalkeeping coach. Nektarios Pantazis, a trainer who has worked at Atromitos and PAOK, may also join the national team set-up.