European Championship in focus: Spotlighting Greece

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Oh, no. Not these guys, again. Didn’t they trudge their way to a title a few years ago? And now they’re back? Yeesh.

That’s going to be the general consensus, with the pragmatic approach Greece employed to win Euro 2004 proving more memorable than the accomplishment. Clearly, that’s not very fair, especially considering Otto Rehhagel’s team played three 2-1s while eliminating Spain and Russia in group stage.

Still, it’s tough to call Greece’s label pure misconception when the team’s spent the last eight years living down to the hype. People have expected boredom, and Greece has duly delivered, and even though they have qualified for (now) three major tournaments in a how, nobody sees their national team schedule a friendly with Greece and think “I can’t wait.”

That doesn’t mean they aren’t good (they went undefeated in qualifying). It just means you might not have trouble getting a ticket when Greece comes to town.

Man that matters:

Theofanis Gekas: As you’d expect from a team synonymous with cures for insomnia, scoring has been a problem for Greece. Who knows if that’s a stylistic concern, a function of their talent, or a chicken-egg scenario (are we conservative because we can’t score, or do we not score because we’re conservative).

Gekas is the one player who can get goals. He’s the only player on Greece’s roster with more than 20 international tallies (Nikos Lyberpoulous is the one other player in double digits), and having consistently found net during club spells in Greece, Germany and (most recently) Turkey, the 32-year-old striker has experience to leverage.

The only issue: Of his 21 career international goals, only three have come against teams in Euro 2012.

First-round games:

June 8: vs. Poland (Warsaw, Poland)
June 12: vs. Czech Republic (Warsaw, Poland)
June 16: vs. Russia (Warsaw, Poland)

Foursome of knowledge:

  • Despite concerns over Greece’s style, the team is still a bit of an unknown. After World Cup 2010, Rehhagel was replaced as head coach by Fernando Santos, who led them to seven wins, no losses in qualifying. Since, Greece has been less convincing, accumulating three draws and a loss in four friendlies. Along the way, the Greeks have managed to find some goals, scoring 18 times in 14 matches. Given a relatively weak Euro qualifying group, that total should be higher.
  • Two important cogs remain from Greece’s 2004 title winner: Panathinaikos midfielders Kostas Katsouranis and Giorgos Karagounis. Katsouranis started the 2004 final against Portugal, while Karagounis scored the tournament’s first goal. Together, they have 214 caps, are a combined 67 years old, and are expected to start in Santos’s midfield.
  • On the other end of the age spectrum, Greece have a handful of youngsters expected to play parts in Poland. Panathinaikos 22-year-old midfielder Sotiris Ninis is an expected starter. Kostas Mitroglou (24, Olympiakos) and Giannis Fetfetzidis (22, Olympiakos) could be impact subs, while 19-year-old Kostas Fortounis (Kaiserslautern) has earned a place in the squad after making his senior debut in February.
  • Greece’s 2004 title was the only time the country has made it out of group in a major competition. In their five other major tournaments, Greece has won only one match, defeating Nigeria at the 2010 World Cup.

Where they are going:

Greece has failed to impress since the end of qualifying, and within their larger body of work, their 2004 title looks like a fluke. They did go through qualifying undefeated (taking four points from Croatia in the process), and while it wouldn’t be a shock to see Santos steer them through an evenly matched Group A, third is the more probable finish.


Goalkeepers: Kostas Chalkias (PAOK), Alexandros Tzorvas (Palermo), Michalis Sifakis (Aris Thessaloniki)

Defenders: Giannis Maniatis (Olympiakos), Giorgis Tzavelas (Monaco), Stelios Malezas (PAOK), Kryiakos Papadopoulos (Schalke 04), Avraam Papadopoulos (Olympiakos), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Werder Bremen), Vasilis Torosidis (Olympiakos), José Holebas (Olympiakos)

Midfielders: Alexandros Tziolis (Monaco), Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos), Giorgis Fotakis (PAOK), Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos), Panagiotis Kone (Bologna), Kostas Katsouranis (Panathinaikos), Grigoris Makos (AEK Athens), Giannis Fetfatzidis (Olympiakos), Kostas Fortounis (Kaiserslautern

Forwards: Giorgis Samaras (Celtic), Nikos Lyberopoulos (AEK Athens), Kostas Mitroglou (Atromitos), Dimitris Salpigidis (PAOK), Theofanis Gakes (Samsunspor)

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Mourinho: ‘Phenomenal’ Tottenham players ‘made Chelsea look ordinary’

Mourinho reaction
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A League Cup game in September is far from a Champions League Final, but Tuesday’s League Cup match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea was a Jose Mourinho performance culled from his best designs.

The ex-Chelsea manager spent weeks planting the underdog sees in the media, had a touchline argument with current Blues boss his former midfielder Frank Lampard, and saw his Spurs come back to win in penalties with a performance very much set up by the tactics.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Mourinho played down the touchline spat with Lampard, but would do no such thing in describing his side’s performance.

Spurs used a 3-5-2 and gave Chelsea possession, something that helped the visitors claim a 1-0 lead, but Tottenham registered more shots on target and claimed a deserved late equalizer set up by Mourinho’s latest signing Sergio Reguilon.

“We were ready to fight, I told you,” Mourinho said after the game, via the BBC. “I told the players before the penalties that they were magnificent in the second half, we made Chelsea look ordinary. The team waited for the right moment…. I have to think about three games at the same time but the players only thought about this game, they were phenomenal. Phenomenal.”

There was a concerning moment that turned out to be comical when Eric Dier ran off the field in the second half and Mourinho zipped down the tunnel.

The manager followed Dier into the bathroom, apparently, and encouraged the English back to handle his business quickly.

“Jose wasn’t happy but there was nothing I could do about it, nature was calling,” Dier said after the game. “I heard there was a chance while I was off the pitch but thankfully they didn’t score.”

It is a bit surprising that this doesn’t happen more often. Hey, when you gotta go…

“With Eric you can imagine what happened, to leave the pitch,” Mourinho said via Football.London. “I was just going to push him a bit as we had one player less. It was the consequence of what he did, tired, dehydrated. I cannot play him on Thursday or I would kill him.”

There’s more good news for Spurs, who move within three wins of a first trophy under Mourinho: Heung-min Son’s hamstring injury isn’t too serious and the South Korean should be back after the international break.

Mourinho also lavished praise on goal scorer Erik Lamela, Spurs’ danger man on the day. The manager said neither Lamela nor Dier will play in Thursday’s Europa League tie against Maccabi Haifa in North London.

USMNT’s Sergino Dest in Spain as Barcelona, Ajax sort payment (video)

Sergino Dest to Barcelona
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USMNT fullback Sergino Dest to Barcelona is nearly official, with the 19-year-old is in Spain as Ajax and Barca are reportedly taking time to sort out the payment plan.

The $27 million Dest is one of at least eight Americans in the transfer rumor mill this week and has been at the heart of a transfer scrap between Bayern Munich and Barca.

Dest was a late sub in Saturday’s win over Vitesse and other reports claimed he had been in Spain for a few days.

[ MORE: Thiago tests positive for COVID-19 ]

It wouldn’t have hurt Barca’s odds that U.S. youth teammate Konrad de la Fuente signed a senior contract this summer after impressing for Barca from the U-16 to U-19 levels.

De la Fuente played right wing in front of Dest at right back for Tab Ramos at the 2019 U-20 World Cup, where the Yanks reached the quarterfinals.

Dest was named Ajax Young Talent of the Year last season and a member of the 2020 Golden Boy shortlist.

He was successfully wooed to stay with the U.S. program despite Ronald Koeman recruiting him to play for the Netherlands. Now Koeman will manage the back at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona visits Celta Vigo on Thursday in its second La Liga match of the season. Ansu Fati scored twice and Lionel Messi once as Barca won its league opener 4-0 over Villarreal this weekend.

Tottenham ousts Chelsea from League Cup

Tottenham - Chelsea
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Tottenham – Chelsea: It took penalties to separate Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea during Tuesday’s League Cup fourth round match in North London, and the first player to miss sealed the result for second-choice Spurs.

Chelsea’s Mason Mount missed the 10th attempt of penalties to send Frank Lampard’s Blues out of the competition.

Erik Lamela’s second-half goal forced the spot kicks after Timo Werner’s first Chelsea goal had given the Blues an early lead at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

[ MORE: Mourinho in fine form after the game ]

Edouard Mendy stopped Erik Lamela and Sergio Reguilon on either side of halftime, but Reguilon and Lamela teamed up to level the score in the 83rd minute.

Spurs did not have Heung-min Son due to a hamstring injury and rested several stars to start but called upon Harry Kane, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, and Lucas Moura off the bench. Chelsea was still without Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

Three things we learned

1. New boys Mendy, Werner impress: There will be better teams including better Spurs teams, butEdouard Mendy was not bothered by the task at hand on Tuesday as he made his first Chelsea appearance following a long-forming $28 million move from Rennes. He made two strong saves when called upon and was confident with the ball at his feet, only causing distress with a failure to cleanly corral a 69th-minute corner kick. There wasn’t much he could do when Emerson’s mistake allowed Lamela an equalizer and penalties are penalties.

It took 11 shots for Werner to get his first proper goal in a Chelsea shirt but the opening tally of his Blues career was certainly a memorable one. Werner smashed a 19-yard shot through traffic to open the scoring in North London and it’s difficult to find fault in any part of it. Coming against a London rival is a bonus.

2. Spurs’ new signing shows Mourinho’s intent: It was clear when Spurs signed Matt Doherty and Sergio Reguilon that Jose Mourinho wanted more from his fullbacks and the latter was very good on debut. Serge Aurier was on the right flank of Mourinho’s 3-5-2 and spotted Reguilon for a first-half chance denied by Mendy before Reguilon’s cross led to the equalizer. This “second-choice” lineup came right out of Mourinho’s wheelhouse and delivered a fairly vintage performance. Chelsea had more of the ball but Spurs more of the shots.

3. Tempers flare between old pals (Mou still has it): Frank Lampard is turning out to be a manager who loves a touchline argument and perhaps that’s something he learned from his old boss. Lampard famously traded barbs with Jurgen Klopp last season and Mourinho was happy to take his old midfielder up on the offer on Tuesday. You can imagine it might take a lot for Lampard to be surprised by Mou but also that the latter knows which pushed buttons can activate the Englishman (A report online claimed that Lampard might’ve irked Mourinho by becoming more vocal after Chelsea took the lead). The pair did shake hands before penalties but Spurs and Chelsea were growing a nice rivalry before the North Londoners dropped off a bit last year. We’re ready for it to regain its feistiness.

Man of the Match

Werner is always running and could’ve had two or three with a bit of luck or more sharpness. He edges a bunch of players who were not with their clubs in the summer: Mendy, Reguilon, and Ndombele (Wait? What’s that you say? Ndombele has been with Tottenham for some time?).

Tottenham – Chelsea recap

Werner got hold of a seeing-eye Cesar Azpilicueta cross in the 19th minute to open the scoring, lashing home from outside the 18.

Gedson Fernandes wanted a penalty when Kurt Zouma won a tight challenge in the heart of Chelsea’s 18, but none came for the Spurs man.

Then Jose Mourinho became a psychic, as Eric Dier left with injury a day after the boss said he expected more injuries to come to Spurs due to fixture congestion.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

A silky Erik Lamela turn forced Mendy into the first big save of his Chelsea career as it stayed 1-0 to the visitors in the 35th.

Mendy then made a strong stop when Serge Aurier’s cross through the box was laced by Reguilon in the 50th.

A big tackle from N’Golo Kante allowed Mason Mount to cue up Werner, but the German’s 73rd-minute low drive was smothered by Lloris.

Mourinho comically zipped down the tunnel to check on Eric Dier after the center back ran off the pitch and into the locker room only to return.

Dier was soon busy again, blocking Mount’s bid to set up Werner alone in the 18.

Spurs sub Harry Kane nearly made it 1-1 in the 81st but missed the frame.

But it was Lamela who spent the day as Chelsea’s threat and he was in the catbird seat when Emerson bungled Reguilon’s back-post cross.

Upcomimng League Cup fourth round kickoff times and odds (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Newport County (+560) v Newcastle (-230)  | Draw (+340)— 12:30 pm ET Weds
Burnley (+625) v Manchester City (-275) | Draw (+375) — 2 pm ET Weds
Brighton (+300) v Manchester United (-120) | Draw (+250)— 2:45 pm ET Weds
Everton (-145) v West Ham (+350) | Draw (+280)— 2:45 pm ET Weds
Brentford (+135) v Fulham (+185) | Draw (+225)— 12:30 pm ET Thursday
Aston Villa (-150) v Stoke City (+360) | Draw (+275)— 2 pm ET Thursday
Liverpool (-105) v Arsenal (+230) | Draw (+270)— 2:45 pm ET Thursday

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links

WATCH: Timo Werner’s first Chelsea goal is a terrific one

Timo Werner first Chelsea goal
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Timo Werner’s 11th shot as a Chelsea player finally yielded his first goal.

The German hit a 19-yard effort past Hugo Lloris to open Tuesday’s League Cup fourth-round match at Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.

Jose Mourinho branded Tottenham’s 18-yard box “a special box” this weekend and Werner will certainly agree after crafting this memory.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

Werner picked up a Cesar Azpicilueta cross that found its way through a sea of players to meet him centrally outside the 18 and powered home for 1-0 in the 19th minute.

The 24-year-old has 95 goals in his time with RB Leipzig, 14 with Stuttgart, and has 12 for the German national team.

This is likely the first of a great many for Chelsea. His first assist came in Chelsea’s Premier League opener against Brighton.