2010 FIFA Preview: Greece

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 28: Kevin Thomson of Rangers tackles Georgious Samaras (green and white) of Celtic during the Scottish Premier League match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox stadium on February 28, 2010 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

    GREECE
    FIFA RANK
    : 13

    As we move into the final 10 previews of this summer's World Cup, you're probably asking yourself, how the heck did Greece get here?

    I have to admit, I'm asking myself the same question. I won't slight the Greeks too much because afterall, Athens was only the birthplace of western civilization and they did create the Olympic games, but 13th ranked soccer nation in the world? Its like the BCS gone mad...oh wait, that already happens.

    The truth is Greece has been riding this FIFA ranking for 6 years because they pulled off one of the all-time great soccer runs in history and won Euro Cup '04. This was a tremendous accomplishment that I can only compare to the 1985 Villanova basketball team winning the NCAA Tournament as an 8 seed. Upsets happen in sports, but Greece went on an unreal run where they beat reigning champion France, the Czech Republic and home favorite Portugal. And its no secret how they did it. They played suffocating defense and rarely took chances, but were deadly on set pieces. Its not the most fun soccer to watch, but I go back to that old sports cliche, defense wins championships and Greece was holding the cup at the end.

    Unfortunately, the reign at the top didn't last long. Greece failed to qualify for the World Cup two years later and were blasted at Euro Cup '08 as defending champions. They literally went from "Greek Gods to Goats!" (I made that up all by myself, thank you, I'll be here all week) Coach Otto Rehhagel was on the hot seat, when just four years earlier, the country gave him the nickname "King Otto." But to its credit, the Hellenic Football Federation ignored the media and fans and stuck with the coach. They were repaid with a surprise birth in this summer's World Cup.

    Now that Greece is back, you can expect a few more surprises in South Africa. As much as I'm shocked they are ranked this high, I believe there is more talent on this current squad than the '04 team. They play exceptional defense, but have some playmakers up front including Celtic striker Georgios Samaras and leading scorer Theofanis Gekas. (I'd go through some more names, but these are already boggling my mind.)

    So what you will get with the Greeks is pretty simple. Low scoring matches that will come down to Greece or their opponents making the best of limited chances. That style gives them the best chance to make any progress, but they are facing some explosive offense minded teams in Argentina and Nigeria.

    I personally don't think they make it past the group stage, but with King Otto calling the shots, the Greeks have a small chance to become "Gods" of the soccer universe once again.

    MATCH SCHEDULE:

    June 12 vs. South Korea - 6:30 a.m. CT (Low scoring affair anticipated, I don't think either side gives up too much.)
    June 17 vs. Nigeria - 9 a.m. CT (If Greece can control the pace, they win, fall behind and Nigeria will likely blow them out of water.)
    June 22 vs. Argentina - 1:30 p.m. CT (Not the best matchup to end the group because I think Argentina will need the points.)

    NEXT ON THE PITCH: FRANCE