SPORTS

Getting ready for South Africa

The national soccer team started preparing yesterday for the World Cup finals taking place next month in South Africa, with just over half of the squad members having their first training session. The league commitments of 11 Greece players in the last few days have meant that only 14 players had their first session under coach Otto Rehhagel in Aghios Kosmas in Athens. The general mood was positive but the players’ optimism was much more restrained than the corresponding first meeting before the European Championship in 2008, when Greece finished bottom of its group. «Preparation starts for a World Cup that we have all wanted badly. I hope we are all healthy and work well,» said midfielder Christos Patsatzoglou, a Euro-2004 winner who returned to the national team after an injury-plagued season at Omonia Nicosia. «We have already achieved our target by being there but we are going to the finals hoping for the best. It will be a success if we qualify to the second round,» the former Olympiakos player added. Patsatzoglou and Giourkas Seitaridis are facing a fitness test to make the cut for the official 23-member squad to fly to South Africa. This will be announced by June 1. «I will fight for a place in the 23-man squad but being invited to the national team is already a great moment for me,» said debutant Giorgos Tzavellas, the Panionios left-back. Greece will fly to Switzerland on Friday and play two friendly games, against North Korea on May 25 and against Paraguay on June 2.