SPORTS

Rehhagel flies into barrage of problems as battle with England approaches

The Greek national soccer team’s German coach, Otto Rehhagel, arrived in Athens yesterday to face mounting problems ahead of the World Cup qualifier against England on Saturday. The former Kaiserslautern manager has only one training session planned ahead of the flight to Manchester as he tries to forge a winning team after making five changes to the squad that lost 5-1 to Finland earlier in the month. He returned to Germany shortly after the humiliating defeat and came to Greece, only briefly, to sign his contract with the Greek Football Association. Greece is out of contention for a place in next year’s finals but the team’s German coach says his team will try its best to get a result in a match that would almost certainly see England through to next year’s World Cup finals if they win. Germany could still top the group if they beat Finland by six goals more than England beat Greece. I will do whatever is in my power to ensure that Germany finish on top of the group, Rehhagel told The Sun newspaper earlier this week. But the absence of Inter Milan left-back, Grigoris Giorgatos, who has retired from the national team, and Olympiakos goalkeeper Dimitris Eleftheropoulos has limited his options. Promising under-21 player Yourkas Seitaridis, promoted to the senior squad for the first time, is an injury doubt, while fellow defender Michalis Kassapis is unlikely to make his first appearance in two years after getting a knock in a league match on Sunday. The 63-year-old Rehhagel is set to rely heavily on players from Panathinaikos who have got off to a good start in this season’s Champions League by winning their first three games. Panathinaikos have shown us the potential of Greek football with their win over Arsenal, Rehhagel told German daily Bild recently. The national team is capable of achieving a similarly important victory against England. Seven of the Panathinaikos side that defeated Arsenal 1-0 in Athens last week are on the squad. Antonis Nikopolidis is expected to replace Olympiakos goalkeeper Dimitris Eleftheropoulos, who has pulled out of the squad for family reasons and was disappointing against French side Lille in the 3-1 Champions League defeat last week. The Greek FA, who chose Rehhagel from several candidates, including Italy’s Mario Tardelli and Terry Venables, have repeatedly said the German would need some time to adjust.