Greece's style behind the times

GARETH WHEELER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

Catching lightning in a bottle- is there any other way to describe Greece's run to European glory in 2004?

Actually there is. It's called BORING!

The eyes of soccer fans were made to bleed by the anti- soccer Greece played in 2004. If you were on the Danforth, your impression may have been different, but for the neutral, the soccer couldn't have been worse.

Defend at all costs and capitalize on set pieces was the name of the game and it worked; to the tune of a measly seven goals in six games and a European Championship.

A lot has changed since 2004. Britney Spears was hot and single back then. The football world has done the reverse-Britney. It has gone from an ugly, undesirably bland game to an exciting, free-flowing brand that rewards talent and skill.

Although the game has changed, Greece hasn't. In 2004, the Greeks were afforded the chance to sit back and take the very little the other sides had to offer. In Austria-Switzerland, they will not have that luxury.

Greece is a well-organized defensive machine that lacks offensive creativity. With the current squad, it's unlikely they can play any other way.

The perennially conservative Italians were able to come out of their shell to play more positive football to win the most recent World Cup because they had the talent and ability to do so.

For Greece, this will not happen.

If you're looking for a Cinderella team, look to the other underdogs in Group D. Both the short-handed Russians and the experienced Swedes are prime breakout candidates.

For the Russians, injuries and suspensions aside, they are still led by the guile of Guus Hiddink.

Leading national sides (Netherlands, South Korea, Australia), Hiddink always has got the most out of his players and he has got his team playing a more dynamic style than ever before.

And remember, Russia is laden with players from Zenit St. Petersberg, this year's UEFA Champions.

As for Sweden, it possesses possibly the most talented front line in the competition. If Zlatan Ibrahimovic can keep his head on straight (and that's a big if), and Henrik Larsson can stall Father Time for just one more month, Sweden can do some damage.

Lame duck co-hosts

In most European Championship tournaments, the host nations are among the favourites and turn out to be some of the strongest squads in the competition. This year, the co-hosts are meeting expectations -- however the expectations are non-existent.

Both Switzerland and Austria were expected to struggle heading in, and though good efforts were put forth on both accounts in their openers, neither team is of the quality to cause any real concern to any team they face.

But the European Championship is a competition where a good effort should not be mistaken as being good enough. This tournament is supposed to pit the best versus the best. Neither Austria nor Switzerland fit into the category.

Is guaranteed qualification really acceptable when the nations being granted a free pass are not among the best in the competition?

UEFA should remedy this by either getting rid of automatic qualification or only awarding the competition to the strongest footballing nations.

Canada qualifiers

Speculation that Canada might play only one game in the National Soccer Stadium in Toronto during the semi-final round of World Cup 2010 qualification is causing a stir.

Speaking with former Canadian national team members, many felt home games in Toronto weren't an advantage at all because of the mass fan support for the visiting sides.

But what do the CSA, fans, and the players expect? Blind nationalism?

To support our country properly, the fans need to know that the CSA is trying to make Canada a winner. This means more home games for Canada and more exposure of the team, which would in turn mean more corporate sponsorship.


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