There are more than a few Komboloi, the traditional Greek beads used to relieve stress and aid relaxation, click-clacking around the team’s training camp. Days after Greece put in an under-par performance in a 2-0 loss to Korea Republic in Nelson Mandela Bay, team officials were grim-faced and pensive, nervously milling about their Durban base.
"We’ve already forgotten about the game," striker Georgios Samaras exclusively told FIFA.com, making it clear that the players were in no way rattled by the result - Greece’s fourth consecutive defeat at a FIFA World Cup™. "It was disappointing, there’s no way around that. But there’s a long way to go and we must remain positive."
The Greeks looked a far cry from the side that shocked the world six years ago, when they beat Portugal in the final of UEFA EURO 2004 to be crowned champions of Europe. Despite having five players in the side from those heady days, plus iconic coach Otto Rehhagel, they were run ragged in their opener and lacked the spark and tireless determination that defined the heroes of 2004.
"We made too many stupid mistakes," said the 25-year-old. "We didn’t defend at all well, which is usually our main strength." When asked if the goalless performance puts more pressure on him to get in among the goals, the player was quick to retort: "There is no hero in this team; we play together as one, always."
The Greeks face a tricky test against and an erratic but explosive Nigeria next, and Samaras sees it as an opportunity to get back to the kind of high-pressure, team-oriented football Greece has prided on over the last decade. "Nigeria is a tough test for us, and they have many talented and strong players playing in top leagues," added the forward, who says his team is fighting for second place with Nigeria and the Koreans, as Lionel Messi and Argentina are likely to take Group B’s top spot. "It will be a chance for us to get back to what we do best: frustrating the opponent.
"We were bad against Korea," Samaras freely admitted. "Against Nigeria we need to get back to what makes us a good team. If a player makes a mistake, the man closest to him needs to immediately react and work twice as hard to solve the problem. If we lose, our World Cup is over. It’s the same for Nigeria."
Greece have a spine of eight players from Panathinaikos’s double-winning side in their domestic top flight, but Samaras – one of only seven in the team playing outside Greece – said it doesn’t matter where a player comes from when he pulls on that national strip.
"Sure, the guys who play together know each other well, but for us to play right we need to all play for the blue shirt of Greece. It makes no difference if you play for Pana or Olympiakos, in Italy, Greece, England or wherever," said the target-man whose strike rate for the national team - five goals in 36 caps - is considerably less impressive than the numbers he has chalked up for his club sides, such as Manchester City and Glasgow Celtic.
Samaras, who calls himself 100 per cent Greek despite being eligible to play for Australia, has a simple plan for the game against Nigeria on 17 June in Bloemfontein: “We just need to play better football."