Holders Greece leave home fires burning
Greece's UEFA EURO 2008™ squad left Athens for the last time on Friday, with coach Otto Rehhagel reluctant to be drawn on how long they would be away from home.
Four years ago, the unfancied Greeks were expected back on home soil after the group stage, only to stay another two weeks in Portugal before returning with the European title. Not wanting to add to the pressure on his players, though, German trainer Rehhagel refused to make predictions for the tournament in Austria and Switzerland. "Our only concern right now is to get in form and be ready on time for the opening encounter against Sweden," the 69-year-old said. "We are European champions and every team wants to beat us."
Rehhagel's squad departed from Athens for Budapest, where they will take on Hungary in a friendly on Saturday. After that, they will set up camp in Frankfurt for their last stage of preparations, which will be followed by a friendly against Armenia in Offenbach on 1 June. Two days later, Greece arrive in Salzburg, the city scheduled to host all three of their Group D outings – against Sweden, Russia and Spain.
"The hard part starts now," commented midfielder Konstantinos Katsouranis. "Our EURO opponents expect us to be strong. I am very glad that we have managed to qualify for the finals for the second consecutive time. That was our main goal. We have no specific aim now."
Forward Angelos Charisteas had a very clear idea of what he hopes will happen, on the other hand, stating: "Europe is still doubting whether we can repeat our level of performance from 2004. We will provide the answers on the pitch and hopefully prove wrong all those who say our success was a fluke." On the injury front, playmaker Georgios Karagounis has a bruised knee and will not play against Hungary. Celtic FC striker Georgios Samaras will link up with the squad in Budapest after celebrating the Scottish league title.