Tomorrow: QUARTERFINAL 2 - France vs. Greece
France vs. Greece
PORTO, Portugal (AP)— France vs. Greece looks like the biggest mismatch of the Euro 2004 quarterfinals.
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Defending champion France has won three major international trophies; the Greeks just a single match going into Friday's match in Lisbon.
"Every team has its possibilities, and so do we," said midfielder Vassilis Tsiartas, whose Greek side is the revelation of Euro 2004. "If you go into the game thinking you have no chance, then you will definitely lose."
"A lot of things have changed in football," he added. "There are not so many differences between teams. Now the big teams need to prove they belong where they are."
Prior to this tournament, Greece had reached the finals of only two major events and hadn't won a game - the 1980 European championship and the '94 World Cup. Its first victory came almost two weeks ago in a 2-1 upset of Portugal. Then came a 1-1 draw with Spain.
They don't come much bigger than France, the defending champion and '98 World Cup winner. But the French, who also won this title in '84, have struggled with unconvincing games against England, Croatia and Switzerland.
"We had four objectives coming into the tournament," said midfielder Robert Pires. "Now, we have three left: the quarterfinal, semifinal and winning the Euro. I can assure you we believe we can do it."
Pires is likely to start on the left of midfield against the Greeks. French coach Jacques Santini seems likely to go with a 4-3-1-2 formation that sees Zinedine Zidane in a central position behind the two strikers - Thierry Henry and either David Trezeguet or Louis Saha.
After training on Tuesday, Santini took Saha aside for a long talk. Trezeguet has been largely anonymous in the tournament, while Saha contributed with his first touch - setting up Henry's first goal in the 3-1 win over Switzerland. Santini has not been afraid to switch players, and Saha could be the latest inclusion.
Meanwhile, injuries have weakened the French.
Defender Willy Sagnol is out with a fractured left arm, William Gallas has a twisted ankle and midfielder Patrick Vieira a left thigh strain. Both Vieira and Gallas could be missing Friday.
However, Les Bleus have depth.
"I consider France one of the favorites to win Euro 2004," said Greek striker Angelos Charisteas, who scored the equalizer against Spain. "They have the best player in the world, Zinedine Zidane, and to play such a team is certainly a challenge for us."
Greece's German coach Otto Rehhagel is credited with taming the erratic Greek temperament and fusing it with rigor and discipline. He warned his players not to be intimidated.
"We know France has the best players in Europe, but we will go in with strength and passion and we have everything to win and nothing to lose," he said.
How will Greece approach the French? An all-out attack would be dangerous. Pires believes the Greeks will try to soak up attacks and maybe wait for penalties.
From the quarterfinals on, there will be no draws. If the game is tied after regulation, teams play an extra 15 minutes. If there is no winner, there will be another 15 minutes. After that, it goes to penalties.
France's trump card may be striker Thierry Henry, who scored twice in the last match, a 3-1 victory over Switzerland. He has 27 international goals. The two goals moistened a barren spell in which he had scored only once in 10 games for club and country.
"His tournament has only just started," said Pires. "I'm happy for him because he was criticized. We always had confidence in him."