Soccer-Greece need Samaras to find scoring touch against Japan


By Philip O'Connor

June 18 (Reuters) - Powerful in the air and capable of unlocking the tightest of defences, Giorgios Samaras has proved frustratingly inconsistent over the years for Greece who need the rangy frontman to quickly rediscover his scoring touch at the World Cup.

Samaras averaged just under a goal every three games during his recently-ended six-year spell at Celtic, which makes his return of eight goals in 75 international appearances seem decidedly meagre in comparison.

Without a goal for Greece in two years, Samaras played on the left of a front three against Colombia but endured another frustrating afternoon as the Greeks lost their Group C opener 3-0.

They take on Japan in Natal on Thursday and while Greece are badly in need of defensive improvement, they will most likely need to score in what Samaras described as a "must, must-win game" if they are to have any chance of progressing.

"We went out to win against Colombia, and that philosophy will not change," Samaras told reporters. "We just hope it brings a better result for us."

To do so, the Greeks will have to ensure that the erratic Samaras shows the kind of consistent form that won him four league titles at Celtic, and not the inconsistency that plagued him at Heerenveen and Manchester City.

He announced his arrival in Dutch soccer with three goals in his first four appearances for Heerenveen, but only found the net twice more for the rest of the 2002/03 season.

Nonetheless, he earned a move to Manchester City in January 2006 and again got off to a flying start, firing four goals in six appearances before another barren spell struck, and he netted only one more goal in that campaign.

His former Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson was often frustrated by his aimless dribbles and inconsistent finishing.

"I don't think he should be doing a lot of tricks," the Swede said in 2007. "He should be using his physical power because he is an extremely good header. For me he is a central striker and a good one."

After a two-year spell at City, Samaras joined Celtic in January 2008 where he enjoyed the best period of his career, albeit against the more porous defenses north of the Scottish border.

But eventually his inconsistency came back to haunt him, and he left the Scottish champions at the end of the 2013/14 season when the club chose not to offer him a new contract.

Having last scored for the national team in a 4-2 loss to Germany at Euro 2012, the striker will be aware that a return to scoring form in the World Cup could play a key role in finding him a new employer.

"All we can do between now and then (the Japan game) is keep positive, keep going and continue to play the same kind of football. We created chances against Colombia and that's something we can't forget," he told reporters. (Reporting By Philip O'Connor; editing by Justin Palmer)

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