Greece make late call-ups for Georgia
Greece coach Fernando Santos has made two emergency call-ups for the crucial UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying clash against Georgia tomorrow. Greece, European champions in 2004, are top of Group B and need a draw in Tbilisi to secure qualification regardless of Croatia's result against Latvia.
PAOK Salonika defender Stelios Malezas and Atromitos right-back Giannis Skondras have joined the squad after Vassilis Torosidis sustained a rib injury in Friday's win over Croatia with Avraam Papadopoulos, Giannis Zaradoukas and Giorgos Samaras all suspended. Skondras joins up with the senior squad for the first time after strong performances with the U-21 side and Schalke centre-back Kyriakos Papadopoulos is also in contention after returning from suspension.
Even though Greece are on the brink of qualification, Santos knows there is plenty of work still to do. "We had two finals to play and we have won the first one (against Croatia)," Santos told www.ekathimerini.com. "It's now up to us against Georgia. We haven't achieved anything yet. We want to celebrate after the game in Georgia, who are a good team and will have nothing to lose when they play us."
Georgia lie fifth in the group and are unable to qualify after only securing two wins in their campaign. Winning against Santos' side will be tough, as Greece will be looking to secure a record 16th consecutive game without a defeat, a run which started when Santos took the reins in August last year.
Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis is proud of his team's record but knows their final opponents could be a tricky stumbling block. "Georgia are a good team and their coach knows Greek football," he told uefa.com. "It's very important for us to qualify for a third straight European Championship. The win against Croatia will count only if we achieve our goal in Georgia."
Croatia, who are currently two points behind Greece, can still finish as best runners-up on goal difference depending on results from other groups. Croatia coach Slaven Bilic wants to tighten up on the mistakes which led to his side slumping to a 2-0 defeat but admitted qualification is not entirely in his hands.
"There's still another game but Greece is the favourite to qualify," he said. "It's not in our hands any more. We will try to beat Latvia and then hope for the best." Israel play Malta in the other game, with Israel unable to qualify and Malta still looking for their first win.