ATHENS, Nov 27 - Factbox on World Cup qualifiers Greece:
Form and Prospects
If the form book is anything to go by then the smart money would
be on Fernando Santos' Greece at least making it through to the
knock-out stage of World Cup 2014.
The Greeks are well worth their place in the draw for next
summer's showpiece after seeing off Romania in impressive style
in the playoffs on the back of a strong qualifying campaign.
Santos' team finished behind eventual Group G winners Bosnia
only on goal difference, with a 3-1 loss to the Bosnians in
Zenica proving their only defeat of another solid qualifying
campaign - albeit in one of Europe's weaker sections.
With a playing style which makes them hard to beat but
unspectacular up front, Greece chalked up an impressive record
of eight wins in their 10 group matches, five of them by 1-0
That lack of goals did cost them top spot but Santos'
ability to blood young players while still keeping a core of
trusted, experienced pros in the dressing room such as Giorgos
Karagounis, Fanis Gekas and Kostas Katsouranis, has proved a
recipe for success.
As ever, Greece will be hard to beat while providing a
considerable threat on the counter attack with their tried and
tested triumvirate strike force of Celtic's Giorgos Samaras,
Olympiakos Piraeus striker Kostas Mitroglou and the tireless
Coach: Fernando Santos
The poker-faced 57-year-old, who sticks to a creed in his
own words of "tactics first, technical ability second", took
over after Greece's World Cup exit in 2010 and has gone about
the considerable task of carrying on the good work of
predecessor Otto Rehhagel in his own way, bringing stability and
success with him.
After a creditable display at Euro 2012, where Greece were
beaten by Germany in the quarter-finals, Santos' men only lost
out on an automatic place at Brazil 2014 to Bosnia on goal
An important factor of Santos' success is his extensive
knowledge of Greek football and culture from his time as a club
manager, having coached some of the country's top clubs in AEK
Athens, Panathinaikos and PAOK Salonica.
Santos lives permanently in Greece and spends most of his
time watching matches and checking on young talent both at home
an on the continent.
He also relies heavily on team manager Takis Fyssas, who was
part of Greece's Euro 2004 winning squad, as well as working
with the younger representative teams.
Key player: Kostas Mitroglou
There is no doubt that the Olympiakos Piraeus striker is the
new darling of the Greek fans and a player who has finally come
of age after a frustrating few seasons playing second fiddle at
club and international level.
The 25-year-old, who was brought to Olympiakos from Borussia
Moenchengladbach's youth set-up in 2007, has always shown a
flair for goals but as well as an impressive strike rate, he has
now shown an increased maturity in leading the attack and
bringing other players into the game.
Despite being somewhat media shy, Mitroglou - who has scored
41 goals in 84 appearances for Olympiakos - is affectionately
known as "Mitrogoal" and "Pistolero" by his club's fanatical
fans for his gun-toting goal celebrations.
The 2013-14 campaign has unquestionably been his
He became the first Greek player to score a hat-trick in the
UEFA Champions League with a treble at Anderlecht in October,
and he has run riot in the domestic Super League by notching up
14 goals in 10 matches - including three hat-tricks.
While not noted for his pace, Mitroglou's key attributes are
his intelligent movement off the ball, physical strength and a
powerful long range shot.
How they qualified: Runners-up European Group G
Sept 7 Latvia A W 2-1 Spiropoulos, Gekas
Sept 11 Lithuania H W 2-0 Ninis, Mitroglou
Oct 12 Bosnia H D 0-0
Oct 16 Slovakia A W 1-0 Salpingidis
March 22 Bosnia A L 1-3 Gekas
June 7 Lithuania A W 1-0 Christodoulopoulos
Sept 6 Liechtenstein A W 1-0 Mitroglou
Sept 10 Latvia H W 1-0 Salpingidis
Oct 11 Slovakia H W 1-0 Skrtel og
Oct 15 Liechtenstein H W 2-0 Salpingidis, Karagounis
Nov 15 Romania H W 3-1 Mitroglou 2, Salpingidis
Nov 19 Romania A D 1-1 Mitroglou
World Cup record:
Previous appearances: 2 (1994, 2010)
Best performance: Never past group stage
Odds: William Hill odds to win World Cup (Nov 2013): 200-1
(Compiled by Graham Wood, edited by Mike Collett)