Russia, Greece to engage each other in battle of tactics
Holders Greece and Russia are expected to ring the changes on Saturday in their bid to avoid a dreaded second defeat in a row in Group D at Euro 2008.
Tactical changes are mooted for Greece, whose cautious approach failed to pay off in Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to Sweden, while coach Guus Hiddink has called for a different mentality among his Russia side after a 4-1 drubbing by Spain.
Greece coach Otto Rehhagel is expected to scrap the tactic of a five-man defence, which was eventually prised open by the Swedes in Salzburg, and opt for an attacking 4-3-3 lineup.
Fanis Gekas should start as his ace will trouble Russia’s defence but there is a question mark over whether Angelos Haristeas and Yannis Amanatidis will make the starting XI.
Rehhagel could opt for the experienced Nikos Liberopoulos, who has often scored from long range and is good at set pieces, to replace either of them.
He might also deploy attack-minded defender Christos Patsatzoglou to close the gap between the back four and a midfield that looked shaky on Tuesday.
“We promise you that we will be a different team. We can’t tell you if we will win or lose but we won’t be the same team as against Sweden,” captain Angelos Basinas said.
Hiddink has said he is unlikely to make any big changes to the team, although he may be forced to if striker Roman Pavlyuchenko does not recover from a thigh problem that forced him to miss some training on Thursday.
His absence ld be a blow to Russia, already without suspended forward rei Arshavin and injured striker Pavel Pogrebnyak. Pavlyuchenko scored their only goal against Spain.
Asked by Russian Y vision channel Sport if he planned many changes, Hiddink said: “Not really. Mainly because we have a young team and we’re not one of those national sides where one of the 23 players replace another and play just as well.”
The Dutchman has told his players to put their error-strewn performance against Spain out of their minds.
“Guus told us that we need to forget the Spain result as soon as possible,” captain Sergei Semak said.
Hiddink added that his young team had paid the price for their inexperience against Spain, when they were repeatedly caught out on the break. After the match, he told his players they had just days to become less naive and more mature.