Unlikeliest winners to follow Euro 2004 blueprint

Euro 2012 team
Euro 2012 team

Team Profile: The Greeks pulled off the unlikeliest of achievements at Euro 2004, beating the Portuguese 1-0 on their own soil despite being 100-1 outsiders. They qualified for the Euros once more four years later, but failed to win a single game – and yet here they are again, having topped Group F and beaten favourites Croatia along the way. Unable to boast any standout stars, the side relied on genuine team effort to get them through the qualifiers, with their 14 goals shared among 11 players. Having already proven that they’re more than capable of defying the odds and expectations, it would be folly to dismiss them, especially as they find themselves in a relatively toothless group, alongside co-hosts Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic. Can they pull off another ‘miracle’?

Coach: Fernando Santos
You’d have thought following in the footsteps of Otto Rehhagel, the tactician behind Greece’s 2004 success, would have been a daunting task, but Portuguese Fernando Santos has seemingly taken things in his stride. The former Athens, Panathinaikos and PAOK manager oversaw an unbeaten run of 17 games – a Greek record – when he took charge in 2010, his game plan seemingly relying on a solid defence (the team shipped a measly five goals in qualifying) and exploitation of set-pieces, which explains the Greeks’ trademark narrow victories.

Player to watch: Sotiris Ninis
Twenty-two-year-old Panathinaikos winger Sotiris Ninis picked up a serious knee injury early during qualification, but is set to recover in time for the finals. He made his senior international debut in 2008 and soon after became Greece’s youngest ever scorer at the age of 18, impressing with his pace and long-range shooting ability. His stunning and ultimately winning solo goal against Israel in Tel Aviv last September helped his side clinch top spot in Group F.

Fact Sheet

FIFA World Ranking: 14
UEFA Euro Ranking: 10
Number of Euro appearances: 12
Previous best: Winners in 2004
Qualification: Winners of Group F – 14 goals scored, 5 goals against, 54 attempts on target, 52 corners
Form (qualifying): DDWWWWWDWW
Fixtures: June 8 vs. Poland; June 12 vs. Czech Republic; June 16 vs. Russia

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