Greece’s qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ rarely looked in doubt as Fernando Santos’ side cruised past Romania in the play-offs 4-2 on aggregate to book their place in Brazil. It is the third time the Greeks have reached the finals after appearances at the 1994 and 2010 editions, though they are yet to progress beyond the group stage. A quick look at the statistics, however, provides the Group G runners-up with plenty of reason for optimism.
The number of minutes goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis played during the qualification campaign. He was the only Greek to play every minute of the team’s 12 matches. Borussia Dortmund defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos was the outfield player with the most playing time, going the distance in 11 matches to rack up 990 minutes. Third was full-back Vasilis Torosidis, who managed 972 minutes.
The average age of the 32 players used by Santos in the 12 qualification matches. The oldest was midfielder Georgios Karagounis at 36, with Charalampos Mavrias the youngest at just 19. Only six players were 30 or above, though Mavrias was the only U-20.
Greece’s defensive approach was underscored by their tough tackling. The team collected 22 yellow cards in their 12 matches, as well as two reds (both for second bookable offences).
Bosnia-Herzegovina’s superior margin of goal difference over Greece in Group G, relegating Santos' side to second place and a two-legged play-off with Romania for a place in Brazil.
The number of different players who got on the scoresheet for Greece in their 12 qualifiers. Between them they managed 16 goals, underlining the team’s goalscoring threat from various areas of the field. Konstantinos Mitroglou struck the most with five, netting three in the two play-off matches against Romania. Dimitrios Salpingidis followed on four goals, while Theofanis Gekas got two and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, Sotiris Ninis, Georgios Karagounis and Nikos Spriopoulos all chipped in with one. Slovakia defender Martin Skrtel’s own goal completes the tally.
Half of Greece’s ten group games were won by a scoreline of 1-0, evoking memories of the defensive solidity they perfected under Otto Rehhagel at UEFA EURO 2004. The Greeks kept three more clean sheets in qualifying but never won by more than a two-goal margin.
The number of goals that keeper Orestis Karnezis conceded during the group stage. Only Spain (three) shipped fewer. In the two play-off matches against Romania he conceded another two, taking the total to six across the 12 qualification matches. At the other end of the field the team managed to score 12 goals during the group stage and a further four in the play-offs, making their total of 16 goals the joint-worst of any of the nations to have qualified, along with Croatia.
The number of years Fernando Santos has been at the helm. He succeeded Otto Rehhagel, who led the country to glory at EURO 2004 in Portugal. Santos can already look back on a number of his own successes, including taking his side to the 2012 UEFA European Championship, where they went out to Germany in the quarter-finals, not to mention next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
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