Defend, defend and defend. There are not secret at the center of Greece’s strategy. A solid defensive approach is Greece’s trademark, once again. The gameplane that led Greece to its glory days in 2004, a decade ago, still remains Greek national team’s philosophy. In Fernando Santos, the head coach that took the reign over from legendary Otto Rehhagel, Greece found a disciple of this kind of approach as Santos’ tactics are based on tactical compactness and a defensive focus whoever gets the field. The 4-3-3 formation Santos opted for is more a 4-5-1 system then an offensive shape featuring three pure forwards. The defensive back four rarely push forward and the main attacking threat still relies on a powerful, centre-forward able to hold up the ball, counter-attacking play and set pieces. It worked defensively as Greek conceded only four goals in 10 qualifying games. In front of Granada’s goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis, Borussia Dortmund’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos is the centerpiece of that backline. With Avraam Papadopoulos left at home due to his poor form, and Kyriakos Papadopoulos injured, it’s time for Papastathopoulos to rise up and show what he’s able to do at the top level. He will be paired to Kostas Manolas at center-back slots while Vasilis Torosidis and José Holebas are the wingbacks. Holebas’ attacking tendency has been heavily criticized and he were sometime utilized as a left winger by his club’s coach, Ernesto Valverde. By the way, Holebas is still expected to start at left-back during this World Cup.
Santos usually builds his midfield around three different kind of players, with a defensive and a holding midfielder alongside an attacking one. The midfield is still built around Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis. By the way Karagounis is no more a sure starter so the central trio could feature Karagounis in the middle, flanked by Alexandros Tziolis and Giannis Maniatis. Bologna’s midfielder Panagiotis Kone could add offensive firepower should he be pick to start in the middle of the pitch while Panagiotis Tachtsidis and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos are decent backups.
The only new to their defensive style of play is that, at this moment, Greece seem to can rely on a scoring forward. This player is Kostas Mitroglou. The 26-year-old Fulham striker could be the man charged with the duty to boost the attacking flair. Mitroglou has to regain his form to do it as he came out from a disastrous gig in the English Premier League, where he played just 153 minutes for his relegated club. Santos hopes Mitroglou will be fit enough to join Georgios Samaras as team’s main threats up front. Should Mitroglou regain the form that made him impressive during his spell at Olympiakos and in the qualifying play-off against Romania, Greece could reach a certain level of dangerousness in attack. Otherwise, they will be forced to rely on Theofanis Gekas once again. This could likely be a bad news as Konyaspor forward, a former Bundesliga top goalscorer, failed to repeat his past performances during this season. Santos is likely to rely on coming in Dimitris Salpingidis as third forward, using PAOK’s attacking wingers in a wider area with the drift inside coming from the flank. Against Japan and Ivory Coast, two teams with defensive troubles, his work could be the key to open the box.
A group containing Colombia, Ivory Coast and Japan presents realistic chances of qualification for Greece and this is the final team’s goal. Having a forward able to solve Greece's chronic lack of goals could be helpful. Team is not lacking of willingness to sacrifice and the roster is relatively well loaded to provide Greece’s own version of how the football should be played by smaller sides. That said, it not means Greece will get its first qualification in a World Cup group. But the Greeks have the tools and the opportunity to finally reach the round two of this tournament.