Monday, November 29, 1999

Argentina stand between Greece and glory

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Greece can be under no illusions about the task ahead of them despite the elation over their unexpected victory against Nigeria.The Greeks take on an Argentina side who are in blazing form in their final Group B clash. Even if they can fight for a draw and steal one point, it might not be enough to go through to the second round.At the back of coach Otto Rehhagel's mind must be the fact that for the first half hour of the game against Nigeria in Bloemfontein's Free State Stadium, his side looked pretty shoddy.Tackles were missed, the ball was easily given away, and the team struggled to get going. After Nigeria's Kalu Uche scored in the 16th minute, it was beginning to look like the Africans could rack up an embarrassing score line.Then Nigeria's Sani Kaita was sent off in the 33rd minute for a foolish moment of petulance, kicking at Vassilis Torosidis when the ball was out of play.That galvanised the Greeks and from then on they buckled down and attacked with determination until they got the two goals needed to overcome the Super Eagles courtesy of Dimitris Salpingidis and Vassilis Torosidis.In doing so, they erased two unwanted statistics -- no wins and no goals scored in World Cup finals appearances.Still, they may rue the fact that they did not bang in a few more against a Nigerian side that was flagging by the last quarter of the match. The second place in Group B could be decided on goal difference if Nigeria beat South Korea.The Asian side, which beat Greece 2-0 in their opening game, could also go through if they beat Nigeria.Or Greece could upset the Argentinians and earn eternal glory."We are going to take on Argentina, a world class team," Rehhagel said after the match."They will clearly be better than us and we have got to see how to cope with them. First of all we are happy to have a chance to qualify. We all know the Argentine team is of extraordinary quality."His players were still enjoying their victory."I don't care what happens now," said scorer Torosidis. "I'm just delighted for the team, and for the fans who never stopped believing in us."INSPIRATIONIf Greece need inspiration for the Argentina match, they can look to their own acheivement in winning the Euro 2004 with a surprise victory in Lisbon over a highly-fancied Portugal side packed with stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo.Argentina may rest some of their own stars for their third match but even their substitutes are formidable.The thought still gave hope to Greek fans who had made it all the way from their sunny homeland to the freezing South African plains."Argentina are not going to play with their first team so we have a chance," said Athens businessman Nikos Paschalikis as he watched highlights of the game in a Bloemfontein shopping mall packed with happy Greek supporters after the game.
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