Greece hope to improve, Spain want more of the same (Preview)

June 13th, 2008 - 7:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Salzburg (Austria), June 13 (DPA) Greece take on Russia Saturday in Salzburg, hoping to put a demoralizing 2-0 defeat by Sweden in their opening game behind them and get their European Championship title defence back on track. Meanwhile, in the other match in Group D, Spain head into their encounter against the Swedes in Innsbruck full of confidence after a 4-1 trashing of Russia.

Greece’s abject performance against Lars Lagerback’s side led to sustained criticism in the Greek media of Rehhaggel’s defensive tactics but left-back Vassilios Torosidis said it was time to put the match behind them and concentrate on Russia.

“Every player is sad about the things that have been written in the last few days,” he said. “It’s not forbidden to criticize us but we are only human. Now we have to all stand together - players, media and fans.”

There has been speculation that the Greek players have called on Rehhagel to dispense with the three-man central defence he deployed against Sweden and to go with a more attacking 4-3-3 line-up, which was successfully used in qualifying, against the Swedes.

Central defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos refused to confirm that a meeting with Rehhagel took place, saying only: “That is for the coach and his team to decide.”

Russia coach Guus Hiddink was equally unhappy with his team’s performance against Spain and, like Rehhagel, will be hoping for a marked improvement on Saturday in the Wals-Siezenheim stadium.

With striker Pavel Pogrebnyak already out of Euro due to injury and fellow-Zenit St Petersburg striker Andrei Arshavin still suspended, Hiddink was given a scare Thursday when Roman Pavlyuchenko missed a training match because of pain in his upper thigh.

“He’s not fit at this moment but let’s see how he performs tomorrow (Friday). His muscles are a little bit tense,” Hiddink said.

The Dutchman put his side’s opening loss to Spain down to naivety and lack of big tournament experience, but added that Russia would have to learn quickly if it wanted to make it to the last eight.

“We need more experience and to learn very quickly. For most of the players it’s their first appearance in a major tournament,” he said.

The atmosphere in the Swedish and Spanish camps ahead of their clash is naturally much more relaxed as the two teams sit joint top of the group with three points apiece.

The only sign of discord surrounds the angry response of Fernando Torres to his substitution by Luis Aragones against Russia.

“The issue with Fernando was only a small thing and is in the past. We have to look ahead,” said Joan Capdevila, while Sergio Garcia added that “we won’t let this destroy the good atmosphere around the team.”

Despite his behaviour in the opening game, the Liverpool striker looks certain to start unless the 69-year-old Spain coach plumps for a 4-5-1 formation with David Villa - hat-trick hero against the Russians - the lone striker up front.

Sweden coach Lars Lagerback will have to do without full-back Niclas Alexandersson for the tussle with Spain because of a calf injury. But the 36-year-old should be available for the final group game against Russia.

However, winger Christian Wilhelmsson is out for the rest of the tournament after pulling a hamstring against Greece and is likely to be replaced by Sebastian Larsson or Johan Elmander.

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