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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Team Runthrough Thread #1 For 6/10/14: #16 Greece

Photo from Reuters 

Projected Formation: 

                                  Gykos 

Torosidis - Papasthathopoulos - Manolas - Horebas 

                           Tziolis (Maniatis) 

         Karagounis (Kone)    Katsouranis (Fetfatzidis)

Salpingidis                                                   Samaras

                                Mitroglou (Gekas)

Key Bench Options: Maniatis, Kone, Fetfatzidis, Vyntra 

The Runthrough: 

Kostas Mitroglou is suppose to be the consistent, top class striker that Greece hasn't had in years.  It appeared full well that he would fit that mantle thanks to a career making fall last year for both club and country. 

In that period, the 26-year-old became the first Greek to score a hat trick in the Champions League in a 3-0 win for Olympacios over Anderlecht.  He ended the first half of the Superleague Greece campaign with 13 goals in 9 games while leading Olympiacos to the knockout stages of Europe's premier competition. And to cap it all off, Mitroglou was the star man in Greece's comprehensive handling of Romania in the qualification playoff legs with three of the teams four goals in the two matches. 

Mitroglou, along with the steady development of Giorgos Samaras and emergence of Giannis Fetfatzidis, would facilitate the most in ending Greece's label of just being all about defending and little attack. But a meniscus injury suffered against PSG last November and a shock January move to Premier League struggles Fulham has seen Mitroglou lose all that great form he was in and return all those doubts about The Ethniki's offense. 

It is the big test for Portuguese manager Fernando Santos, as his tough Group C rivals Colombia, Japan, and Ivory Coast have no questions about their goal creating abilities. Dimitris Salpingidis,  Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsournis, in likely their final World Cup, will be counted on to sometimes sit in those key holding position behind Mitroglou. Salpingidis, at 32, still has an unheralded ability at timing his box crashing well and can deliver a key final ball pass at times. Karagounis, who was a big reason for Mitroglou's decision to move to Craven Cottage in the winter, still can produce deep lying playmaking despite being one of the older players in the tournament in 37. PAOK's Katsournis, Karagounis' longtime midfield partner and Salpingidis club teammate, does the same at 34 and will look to not get over run in the midfield. 

The risk of play mid 30 year olds in center of the park against explosive attacking sides could persuade Santos to give some of the next wave of Greece midfield stalwarts the start. Serie A based quartet of Panagiotis Kone, Lazaros Chrustodoulopoulos,  Giannis Fetfatzidis, and Panagiotis Tachtsidis all are 27 and under with Kone helping his candidacy to start with a fine headed goal against Bolivia in the final warmup. Genoa playmaker 23-year-old Fetfatzidis could see his name on the first eleven if Santos feels his team need more in attack. 
  
Helping them create some chances for Greece is an underrated element about this team, the attack ability of steady Roma defender Vasilis Torosidis.  The 28-year-old is well adapt at going forward and has a fine understanding with Salpingidis on the right. 
  
The Greeks do have the talent to produce goals, as they will need to in order to take the pressure off their fine defense against the three great attacking teams they will face. Continuing the fine Greek defensive structure besides Torosidis is Borussia Dortmund solid centerback Sokratis Papastathopoulos, a fine third option for Jurgen Klopp who had to play significant minutes in wake of long term injuries to Mats Hummels and Nevan Subotic. The "Papa", as his nickname is, has the rare quality pace not found in many centerbacks and was listed among some best elevens in the Bundesliga this season.  

The 26-year-old is as solid as they come and has developed a key synergy with 22-year-old surging figure Kostas Manolas, who is a major danger from set pieces as well. A good tournament for him could see Manolas enter the case of highly touted young centerbacks in this tournament, with Switzerland's Fabian Schar ahead of that list. Manolas's Olympiacos teammate Jose Holebas is a solid leftback who may not be as sharp going forward as Torosidis but can provide that width if needed. 

Manolas and Holebas club buddy Giannis Maniatis could be preferred over Alexandros Tziolis as the true defensive midfielder in the lineup for the opener against Colombia. Tziolis has been the solid incumbent in that spot, but Maniatis' ability to cover more ground maybe necessary against the likes of Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast), James Rodriguez (Colombia), and Keisuke Honda (Japan).  

Despite a hard charging effort from Granada's Orestis Karnezis with his late season form, PAOK shotstopper Panagiotis Glykos looks set to still be the #1 for Greece at keeper. That's key because his chemistry with Manolas and Papastathopoulos is something that Karnezis doesn't have at this point. Lurking as the 3rd goalkeeper is 6'5 Stefans Kapino, one the more intriguing goalkeeping prospects in the world at just 20, with already the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, and Napoli giving him a close look throughout the last few years. 

With the concerns over Mitroglou's form at the moment, the accomplished veteran that is Theofanis Gekas may have to be the starting option at forward for Santos. The 34-year-old may not be at the heights of his Bundesliga goalscoring days, but is still capable of putting in a good swift. However, for Greece to advance, they had better hope that Gekas is an invaluable sub and not a replacement starter. Santos would be better off moving Samaras up top while having Fetfatzidis fill in outside. 

Once again Greece are looked at as being both impenetrable but impotent. It's a combination that will always make them so competitive but always at risk of having one moment of luck or lack of concentration ending their World Cup. Santos' only way of getting Greece out of this difficult group is if they find one prime goal scorer to add that element most don't think they have. And that one prime goal scorer, if he is back to his form from seven months ago, is Mitroglou. 

Key, Under The Radar Player: 

Salpingidis- Despite never playing out of his homeland, Salpingidis' talent could have seen him play a key role in a good big five UEFA league club. He will be counted on as the main playmaker to somehow unlock a defense and give Greece's critics a sign that they aren't just about organized defending and set piece opportunities. 
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