SPORTS

First friendly test for Greece

The national soccer team is in Switzerland to prepare for the World Cup finals in South Africa next month and tonight it faces North Korea in a friendly game. Two-and-a-half weeks before Greece’s first match in the finals, on June 12 against South Korea, German coach Otto Rehhagel said yesterday in a press conference at Bad Ragaz, where the national team is gearing up for the tournament, that North Korea is the ideal opponent for Greece to play ahead of the opener with South Korea. «They have a balance of results in the games between them and their playing styles match. We cannot afford to underestimate any opponent. In every game, we have to be perfectly focused, no matter what the opponent is called,» the 71-year-old coach said. The friendly with North Korea starts at 9 p.m. tonight (live on Novasports1). Greece has 25 players at Bad Ragaz, with two set to be dropped by June 1, the deadline for the final announcement of the World Cup squads. One major worry for Rehhagel is defender Vassilis Torosidis’s fitness level. «He will follow an individual training program for a few more days and then he will join the rest of the group. It is all going perfectly so far,» said Rehhagel, who would not even think of losing a precious utility player such as the Olympiakos star who is nursing an injury. Asked about Greece’s overall aim in this year’s finals, Rehhagel was not as clear: «It was never our aim to score many goals. When Greece took part in the 1994 World Cup, it did not score and did not do well. We have to play well in defense and score goals too. We have to generally respond to the demands of games. But in order to advance to the next round, we definitely have to score goals.» Greece will play one more friendly before the finals, facing Paraguay on June 2.