June 21, 2012
Rock-solid Greeks tough to play against
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
WARSAW - There is no way Germany should lose Friday to Greece in a Euro 2012 quarterfinal.
Just as there was no way the Greeks could win Euro 2004, which they did. Just like there was no way Greece would advance to the second round of Euro 2012, which it did.
Never count Greece out of anything.
Germany manager Joachim Loew has a perfect explanation of what it is like playing Greece.
"It's like biting into a rock," he said.
Germany is a prohibitive favourite to beat Greece and move on to the Euro semifinals. The Germans have a solid striker in Mario Gomez and a midfield of Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger, as well as Mats Hummels, the best defender at Euro so far. They have the field covered.
Greece is a tough nut to crack defensively, but Gomez can punish even one mistake. Ozil and Schweinsteiger constantly will pressure that defence, while whatever pressure Greek forwards bring to the German defence they stand a good chance of dying at the feet of Hummels.
But this isn't anything Greece hasn't faced before. Every time the Greeks play the top nations in the world, they are reminded of how much of an underdog they are.
It no doubt has helped them develop the steel-like spine that allows them to withstand adversity.
It isn't all one way traffic. Whenever it plays, Greece creates noise of its own and players aren't afraid to speak up about it.
Greece is not awed by the Germans. The Greeks are defiant, ready and a little gnarly in attitude.
They are probably sick and tired of hearing how their nation is a wreck financially and how they can't win athletically.
"We're going to play Germany," Greek midfielder Kostas Katsouanis told reporters. "What do you think we are thinking? That we're going to lose? That's why (the Germans) are going to have a tough time.
"What do they think? That we're just going to stand there and look at them? We're going to play them. We have proven that through the games so far."
Striker Dimitris Salpingidis said his team is ready to fight for a win.
"If you come to the dressing room you will see 22 fighters ready to fight," he said.
"It doesn't matter to us what anyone says. In 2004, we proved we could do it. What we're going to do is fight, and try to go through to the next round."
Germany has never lost to Greece in a Euro competition but is also aware that nothing comes easy in these tournaments.
"It will be an uncomfortable match," German midfielder Lars Bender said. "We will have to find some solutions in how we play against them."
And there is the shadow of the political and financial situation between the countries created by the euro bailout.
Both teams have been playing down that sensitive political issue, but German chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to attend the game Friday.
"Angela Merkel and the national team are on good terms," Loew said. "We agree she will not interfere in my tactical instructions and I will not interfere in her political agenda. This is a normal sporting contest and that is the end of it."