Tsanas: The Greece squad is one big family

The last time Greece were considered merely as potential dark horses in the build-up to a major tournament is now almost a decade ago. Their sensational run to UEFA EURO 2004 glory changed perspectives and established their reputation as one of the toughest sides to beat in world football.

And after narrowly losing 1-0 to Spain in the UEFA European U-19 Championship final last year, self-belief is not in short supply in Kostas Tsanas's squad ahead of the eagerly-anticipated FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013. Yet with just ten days to go until kick-off, the Greece coach is refusing to bask in previous successes.

"They belong in the past and we must stay focused on our future goals," the 45-year-old told FIFA.com. "It would be great if we could transfer our intense emotions of the past into our goals for the U-20 World Cup. We're all very aware of the fact that everybody will view us as European finalists and that'll make things more difficult for us."

Having been drawn in Group D alongside Paraguay, Mali and Mexico, who won the FIFA U-17 World Cup on home soil two years ago, Greece were already guaranteed a tough assignment.

Despite the compliments, and the accompanying pressure, being directed their way, the young Greek team can hardly wait for the tournament to start. The trip to neighbours Turkey also marks a historical first, which Tsanas believes will help spur his charges on further: "This is the first time that we'll participate in an U-20 World Cup and we're thrilled about it."

Our team consists of players with talent and personality, but one of our main traits is our togetherness. We're one big family.
Kostas Tsanas

Nevertheless, the coach is determined not to just make up the numbers at the 24-team competition. 

"I really cannot predict anything," he said. "On the other hand, I can assure you that we'll be competitive and play quality football. If we manage to qualify for the next round we would already have accomplished one of our main aims. Above all, we want to be worthy representatives of Greek football and to give joy to our fans."

In the group stage, they will play against both Mexico and Mali in Gaziantep, while Trabzon will be the venue for Greece's meeting with Paraguay. Following their progress as they plot a route to the final in Istanbul on 13 July promises to be a fascinating prospect.

"Our participation at the U-20 World Cup is an accomplishment that somehow completes the list of great things that we've managed to achieve so far," Tsanas said with pride. "There is now no tournament, either UEFA or FIFA, which we haven’t participated in. These remarkable achievements, along with the national team’s strategic development plan that was drawn up by Mr. Santos (Fernando Santos, coach of the senior Greece side) are the cornerstones that are leading us in the right direction.

"The Hellenic Football Federation gives its full attention to grassroots football, since that is the source that feeds all of our national teams. Our participation at the U-20 World Cup will provide an extra motivation to young players to work harder and stay focused."

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Greece have earmarked second place in their group as a minimum target and Tsanas cannot suppress his emotion when talking about the forthcoming matches.

"Each of the teams has their own special traits, their own philosophy and football style," he said. Adapting to such variables against teams from all over the world is part of what makes the tournament such a valuable experience for the players as they prepare for their future in the game. 

Tsanas is convinced his troops have what it takes to makes their mark on the event: "Our team consists of players with talent and personality, but one of our main traits is our togetherness. The players have been part of the same team for many years now and as a result they're familiar with each other’s style of play. We're one big family.

"After the elimination of Argentina and Brazil, I believe that every team has a chance to win the trophy. Truly, nothing can surprise me at this level."