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Work still lies ahead for a place at Euro 2008 October 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Work still lies ahead for a place at Euro 2008, warns coach Otto Rehhagel >  Greece hosts Bosnia tomorrow with a two-point lead as campaign enters final stretch

Greece may hold an advantage over its rivals in Euro 2008 qualifying competition as the group front-runner but coach Otto Rehhagel remained cautious at a news conference yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s home game against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“After drawing in Oslo, the situation is favorable for us and we can qualify, but we mustn’t underestimate Bosnia,” Rehhagel told reporters. “They have beaten Norway and Turkey and can still qualify. Players from the former Yugoslavia are all technically gifted so we must be very careful and perform at a high level. I hope our fans will be there to support us this weekend.”

Greece leads Group C with 19 points from eight games, two points ahead of Turkey and Norway, which has played an additional game. Bosnia is four points behind the two, after nine games. The top two teams qualify for next summer’s finals in Austria and Switzerland. Tomorrow’s game is Greece’s first at the Olympic Stadium since Otto Rehhagel took over as coach in the summer of 2001.

Recent crowd problems at Karaiskaki Stadium that led to a two-match fan ban for the Nnational team, subdued performances in Greece’s unsuccessful bid to reach the 2006 World Cup finals, and a 4-1 thrashing at the Piraeus stadium against Turkey, all combined to prompt the venue change.

“The fact we’re playing at the Olympic Stadium is not that important,” the 69-year-old Rehhagel said. “Every pitch has the same dimensions. The Bosnians will only have an advantage if we let them play, not because of the ground,” he added. The Olympic Stadium’s 65,000 capacity is double that of Karaiskaki Stadium, a venue whose pitch is not surrounded by a running track. Rehhagel said he would be content with a turnout of about 50,000 fans tomorrow night.

After Bosnia, Greece is hosted by Turkey next Wednesday. Though Greek fans may be more preoccupied by the match against the neighboring rivals, Rehhagel refused to look ahead.

“What concerns me right now is the Bosnia match,” Rehhagel said. “I will deal with the encounter with Turkey after that. We just want to defeat Bosnia and get three points on a day when Norway don’t play,” he continued, referring to Noway’s bye tomorrow.

Comparing his team’s Euro 2008 campaign to the failed World Cup bid, Rehhagel said his players had minimized personal errors. “We were all disappointed by our failure to qualify for the World Cup finals. We made lots of personal errors in that campaign but we’ve reduced them to a minimum now,” said Rehhagel.

Strikers Fanis Gekas and Angelos Charisteas, both injured, are considered doubtful for tomorrow’s game. Meanwhile, in Greek Cup fourth-round matches yesterday, it was: Ilioupolis-Larissa, 0-4; Agrotikos Asteras-Ergotelis, 1-0; Messiniakos-Asteras Tripolis, 0-2; Aghios Dimitrios-Aris, 0-1.

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