Nikopolidis, Antzas to hang boots
Greece keeper Antonis Nikopolidis and defender Paraskevas Antzas announced on Sunday they would retire from international football after Wednesday’s final Euro 2008 Group D game against Spain.
Nikopolidis, 37, who was a member of the victorious Euro 2004 team and has won 89 caps, and 31-year-old Antzas, who has 25 caps, said it was time for younger players to come into the squad.
“For me the match on Wednesday will be the last match,” Nikopolidis said. “We lived through a great time and bad times but the important thing is we always were a family.”
Greece are already eliminated from the tournament after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Russia, which followed an opening 2-0 loss to Sweden.
Nikopolidis urged younger players coming into the squad not to feel burdened by the team's success four years ago and hoped his retirement would not trigger similar decisions by others.
“I don’t think my withdrawal from the national team should start a wave of departures,” he said, seconds before Antzas also announced his retirement.
Nikopolidis won his first cap in August 1999 when Greece played El Salvador in a friendly. Antzas made his debut in a friendly in February of that year against Belgium.
While the keeper was an integral part of the team for most of the past nine years, Antzas stunned coach Otto Rehhagel when he decided to leave Olympiakos in 2003 to join a minor league club for personal reasons.
He was subsequently dropped from a squad that went on to record Greece’s biggest soccer success by becoming European champions.
Gekas hospitalised with broken cheekbone
Greek striker Theofanis Gekas suffered a broken cheekbone during the deposed titleholder’s 1-0 Group D defeat to Russia on Saturday.
The 28-year-old came on as a substitute in the Russian match and is highly unlikely to take any part in their final match of against Spain on Wednesday.
Other injury worries concern fullbacks Vassilis Torosidis and Giourkas Seitaridis, who have both got groin problems and sat out training on Sunday.
Injury worries mount for Russia
Russia’s injury worries mounted ahead of their crucial Euro 2008 Group D match with Sweden on Wednesday as talented midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was declared doubtful.
Bilyaletdinov went off in the second-half of Saturday's 1-0 win over deposed titleholders Greece, but coach Guus Hiddink wouldn't elaborate on the nature of his injury.
Bilyaletdinov is one of three Russian midfielders struggling with injuries following the Greek match, Yuri Zhirkov and Sergei Semak being the others, though the former believes he will be fit.
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