King Otto needs World Cup results from Greece (Group B team profile)

May 27th, 2010 - 6:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Bayern Munich Athens, May 27 (DPA) Greece’s 2004 European Championship title is long enough past that Ethniki fans are slowly calling for coach Otto Rehhagel to produce at the 2010 World Cup.
The German coach, who has enjoyed the nickname “King Otto” ever since the 2004 crown, has bought some time after leading Greece to their first World Cup since 1994 and second overall.

Rehhagel, 71, will need his team to perform better than 16 years ago in the United States, where they bowed out with three losses in group play without scoring and conceding 10 goals.

Still, it’s a huge matter for Greece and Rehhagel himself to be at South Africa 2010, where they will take on Argentina, South Korea and Nigeria in Group B.

Rehhagel, who managed to pull the Greek national team out of relative obscurity, had never coached or played at the highest international level despite five decades in the game, including massive success with German sides Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich.

The veteran coach enjoys nothing but support from his players, including top striker Theofanis Gekas.

“We should build him a statute,” Gekas told soccernet.com recently. “He inspired us, and it’s fair to say that most of the time we were playing for him … Without him, we’d probably be back where we were before - in obscurity.”

And the Greeks have faith in Rehhagel’s leadership, which helped them finish the European qualifying Group 2 second behind Switzerland before beating Ukraine 1-0 on aggregate in the playoffs.

Now Greece once again are considered underdogs with two-time champions Argentina, South Korea and Nigeria all having more experience.

But the Greeks don’t mind that status.

“Nobody expected us to do anything at Euro 2004 and we went out and won it,” Greek midfielder Giorgos Karagounis told the FIFA website recently. We were in the same group as hosts Portugal, Spain and Russia. We beat Portugal, drew with Spain and lost to Russia, who were supposedly the weakest team. That just shows you there are no easy sides out there. The least you can do is fight, and that’s what we’ll be doing out on the pitch.”

Often under attack by the Greek media for his insistence on using ageing players, Rehhagel is under pressure to adopt a more attacking stance with a smaller pool of players.

Adopting a no-nonsense defence was the foundation for success in 2004 and it is again likely to underpin the strategy of the team.

Rehhagel was considered a mastermind in Portugal six years ago and even fielded five defenders in one of the playoffs against Ukraine.

Now he gets his chance to show his touch at the World Cup. If Greece could go far in South Africa, King Otto may just take on god-like status.

The coach - Otto Rehhagel, nicknamed “King Otto” by the Greek press, took over the reins in 2001 and after eight successful years in charge he can be considered Greece’s greatest coach.

The 71-year-old German became the first “foreign” boss to take Greece to success at the European championships in 2004 and he has now been in charge of the team for more than 100 games - more than any other coach.

He also had managerial successes in the Bundesliga with Werder Bremen and Kaiserlauten, leading the former to Cup Winners’ Cup glory. He also helped steer Bayern Munich to the 1996 UEFA Cup final but was dismissed before the event took place.

He is known for his autocratic, no-nonsense style which has been dubbed “Ottocracy” in some sports circles.

Star player - Unlike other European teams, Greece does not have a lot of international superstars in their ranks - they are more about team play. But if one had to select a star player then two come to mind, Georgios Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis.

Midfielder Karagounis, nicknamed “The Dude” spent two seasons in Portugal with Benfica before returning to Greek side Panathinaikos in 2007 and remains a key part of the national side.

Known for his free-kicks within 30 metres of goal, Karagounis will likely serve as the team’s showstopper again. He is best remembered for scoring the first goal of Euro 2004 where the stunning long range effort helped his team win the opening game of the tournament against the hosts Portugal.

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