One last hurdle to jump

Greece still needs a victory tomorrow (9 p.m.) over Luxembourg at the Olympic Stadium in Athens to make sure it makes the playoffs that lead to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa. However, the impressive second half of Saturday’s game, which helped Greece overturn the 2-1 score with four goals in 45 minutes for a 5-2 win, has not managed to conceal the internal problems that plague the national soccer side. The press was full of reports yesterday about a heated argument in the dressing room among Greece players at halftime, and which coach Otto Rehhagel was reportedly unable to control. The German coach tried to address this unrest in his talk to the players in Sunday’s training session, stressing that such behavior must not be repeated. The four goals scored by Fanis Gekas and a stunning bicycle kick by Giorgos Samaras eventually healed some of Greece’s wounds and these are unlikely to reopen tomorrow against Luxembourg, but it remains to be seen how Greece will fare in the all-important playoffs it is likely to play next month against either Ireland, Slovenia (or Slovakia), Bosnia or Ukraine for a place in the World Cup. The upset would be if Israel was to beat Switzerland away tomorrow, offering Greece the top spot, provided Greece overcomes Luxembourg. Consequently tomorrow’s game has its own significance. «We still have to win this game, and we haven’t yet. Luxembourg will come here to give us a very hard time,» Rehhagel said at yesterday’s press briefing. He will have to field a side without the suspended Samaras and Giourkas Seitaridis, but central defenders Avraam Papadopoulos and Sotiris Kyrgiakos, who missed the Latvia game, are now available. Before that, the national under-21 side is hosting Lithuania at Tripolis for its fifth match in the European Championship’s qualification group. The Greek youngsters have 10 points from four games, after beating Portugal 2-1 last Friday at the same ground.