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Greece ready to show their mettle

Greece will be eager to prove their surprise 2004 triumph was no fluke when they launch their European Championship title defence against Sweden on Tuesday.
By HT Correspondent | Reuters, Salzburg
UPDATED ON JUN 09, 2008 09:39 PM IST

Greece will be eager to prove their surprise 2004 triumph was no fluke when they launch their European Championship title defence against Sweden on Tuesday.

The Greeks, who sailed through qualification, are targeting at least a place in the last eight with tricky Group D games against Russia and Spain to follow.

Coach Otto Rehhagel may decide to drop his tried and tested 4-4-2 system in favour of a three-pronged attack featuring Angelos Haristeas, Fanis Gekas and Yannis Amanatidis.

Greece hit 25 goals in 12 qualifiers, more than double the total they scored ahead of the 2004 tournament.

“I want to score but what is important is to win this game, to win our first match,” Haristeas told reporters.

“Both teams are similar. They are physical, quick and rely heavily on tactics,” added the player who netted the winner in the final against Portugal four years ago. “Whoever has a clearer game plan and sticks to it will win.”

Every player in the squad is fit to play including midfielder Giorgios Karagounis, who is over the knee injury that has been nagging him for two weeks, defender Paraskevas Antzas and goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis.

Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are expected to start up front for Sweden although the latter has not scored an international goal since October 2005 and is unlikely to last the 90 minutes due to a swollen knee.

Sweden coach Lars Lagerback sees a lot of similarities between the teams.

“Greece are a very good side,” he said. “They were one of the best teams in qualifying.

“They are a lot like us in the way they play. They do the basics very well and are well-disciplined.”

The Swedes have been spending a lot of time practising set pieces behind closed doors but Lagerback said there may not be many goals in Salzburg.

“You have to be very clever,” he said. “Each game is a cup final so you have to be careful and not go all out on the attack.”

Sebastian Larsson, playing in his first major finals, looks likely to get the nod on the right wing ahead of Christian Wilhelmsson.

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