FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — Greece is running out of time to make its mark on the World Cup. It hasn’t scored in Brazil and is stranded at the bottom of Group C with one point, tied with Japan but behind on goal difference.
For Tuesday’s game against Ivory Coast, coach Fernando Santos is keeping his priorities simple.
“We have to score goals,” he said. “I don’t care who does it. If it is (goalkeeper Orestis) Karnezis, that’ll be fine with me.”
With Colombia already through to the knockout stage, Greece would have to beat the second-placed Africans to make the last 16, and hope that Japan doesn’t prevail over the South Americans with a better overall goal tally.
Santos, the 59-year-old Portuguese manager, is quitting after the tournament after taking Greece to its third World Cup with an impressive 8-1-1 qualification run that took them to their current 12th place in the world rankings.
“We have to show the qualities that got us here,” he said. “The Ivory Coast is a strong team with good players. But we are strong too and we got here on merit … talk of anything else is just a distraction.”
Star qualification striker Kostas Mitroglou took part in regular training Monday at Fortaleza’s Arena Castelao, despite taking a knock in the previous match with Japan that saw him substituted with back pain.
But Santos refused to say whether he would start.
“Look, I’m not going to tell you what the lineup will be tomorrow,” he said.
Vice-captain Costas Katsouranis is suspended Tuesday, forcing changes to the squad that could see Georgios Samaras, the outgoing Celtic player, moved forward. Versatile midfielder Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, who hasn’t played in Brazil, has also been given a prominent role in training.
Santos appeared frustrated at questions about Greece’s poor World Cup record that have seen them score just twice in three tournaments so far.
“Some people don’t know very much about football. We’ve worked two-to-three years on our game and done some great things. You can’t change that in a couple of days … I don’t care about Japan or what they do. Forget about Japan.” he said, indicating that he had already made his selection for the Fortaleza match.
“Today, I’m going to have a couple of cigarettes after dinner and then I’ll go to bed, like I do every night,” he said.