Wednesday 21 March 2018

Rehhagel seeks defence-first policy to avoid Greek tragedy

Greece and Nigeria are in the same predicament ahead of their match today: lose and they're almost certain of a first-round exit. But the Greeks' position is even more grim.

Nigeria only conceded one goal and went close to scoring a late equaliser in an opening loss to Argentina, while a lacklustre Greek side fell 2-0 to South Korea and still have to face Lionel Messi and Argentina in the last group game.

"We both started with a bad result, and we all realise the importance of this game," Greece striker Fanis Gekas said. "First of all we have to play good football, but of course we have to correct our mistakes from the first match."

Greece failed to stick to coach Otto Rehhagel's plans against South Korea and conceded a crucial early goal when they failed to clear a free kick, and the team never recovered.


Rehhagel, who led Greece to an unexpected European Championship title in 2004, said yesterday the key for his team against Nigeria lies in returning to his defence-first philosophy, which demands players follow his tactics precisely, denying space and capitalising on set-piece attacks.

"We have to make sure that we keep our goal clean. There are some very athletic players in the Nigerian team and we'll have to be prepared for that," Rehhagel said. "Our team will have to show that it still has a chance to advance and we'll have to fight for it with passion."

Greece, who are still searching for their first World Cup goal having conceded 10 goals while failing to score in three losses in their only other trip to the finals in 1994, need to find the back of the net in South Africa to maintain hopes of advancing.

Nigeria are not quite the dynamic team that lived up to its nickname of the 'Super Eagles' in the 1990s, but coach Lars Lagerback's squad in South Africa has enough talent to be competitive against Greece, even without injured Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel.

Irish Independent

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