How they qualified
Greece enjoyed an excellent qualification campaign. Their points total of 25 from their ten games would have been enough to see them through as winners in five of the other eight groups; instead, they had to endure a play-off after losing out on goal difference to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Five of their eight victories were secured with 1-0 scorelines, and it was only against Group G’s eventual winners that the Greeks dropped points after a 0-0 draw at home and a 3-1 defeat in Zenica.
In the play-offs, Fernando Santos’ men were pitted against a Romanian outfit that boasted its fair share of FIFA World Cup™ experience, but the UEFA EURO 2004 winners carried their good form into the two-legged tie and advanced comfortably. After a storming 3-1 win at home, a 1-1 draw in Bucharest was enough for Greece to seal their place in Brazil next summer. Three of their four goals came from in-form striker Konstantinos Mitroglou, whose five strikes during qualifying make him Greece’s most potent attacking option.
FIFA World Cup finals history
The undoubted high point in Greek footballing history was their stunning triumph at EURO 2004 in Portugal, but their record at the FIFA World Cup finals is distinctly modest. At USA 1994, they departed for home with no points and no goals following group stage defeats to Argentina (4-0), Bulgaria (4-0) and Nigeria (2-0). Some 16 years later, the trip to South Africa did produce a 2-1 win over Nigeria, but 2-0 defeats to Korea Republic and Argentina meant another group stage exit.
The current crop
The Greek FA and EURO 2004-winning coach Otto Rehhagel parted company after a disappointing 2010 World Cup, bringing an end to the veteran German’s nine-year tenure. His successor, Fernando Santos from Portugal, has effected a seamless transition, first guiding the team to EURO 2012 – where they were beaten by Germany in the quarter-finals – before delivering their most recent success by reaching next year’s World Cup.
The key players
Captain and seasoned midfield general Giorgos Karagounis remains the dominant figure in the Greek line-up but forwards Dimitrios Salpingidis and Mitroglou will certainly have a part to play and provide Santos with a variety of attacking options. He can also call on the experience of the likes of Theofanis Gekas and Giorgos Samaras, which will be key when the tournament begins. Incidentally, though, despite their array of attacking talent, it was Greece’s defence that stole the show in qualifying, laying the foundation for success by conceding just four times in ten matches.
Coach: Fernando Santos
Best performances in a FIFA competition: USA 1994, South Africa 2010 (Group stages)
Former stars: Theodoros Zagorakis, Antonios Nikopolidis, Angelos Basinas