Vlachodimos: Greece keeper has his eyes on Germany

  • Interview with Greek No.1 Odisseas Vlachodimos

  • Fond memories of EURO 2004 win

  • Will Greece make it to Qatar 2022?

Every time Odisseas Vlachodimos plays a home fixture with his club, Benfica, it brings to mind the greatest night in the history of his country, when Greece sensationally won UEFA EURO 2004 on 4 July of that year. Angelos Charisteas scored the golden goal at the Estadio da Luz against Cristiano Ronaldo and hosts Portugal in the final, sparking joy throughout an entire nation.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - JULY 4: Traianos Dellas of Greece lifts the trophy during the UEFA Euro 2004 Final match between Portugal and Greece at the Luz Stadium on July 4, 2004 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Vlachodimos was 10 years old at the time and recalls sitting in front of the TV with his family in Stuttgart as captain Theodoros Zagorakis held the trophy aloft. "That was such a special moment," the now 27-year-old told FIFA.com of that historic day. “The entire family watched all of the matches together, and then we ended up winning the whole thing – something nobody expected.”

And obviously nobody expected that all these years later, little 'Ody' would be the last line of defence for the Greek national team. Born in Stuttgart, he joined his city’s main club VfB at the age of eight and moved up through the ranks of the youth teams. Steady progress allowed him to make his debut for Germany at U-15 level, and in 2011 he was part of the team that finished third at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico – the first big highlight of his career. "Playing in a World Cup really is something special, and back then we weren’t far off getting to the final," he said.

Football - FIFA Under 17 World Cup Mexico 2011 - Germany v Mexico - Semi-Final - Torreon - Nuevo Estadio Corona - 7/7/11.Actionshot, Odisseas VLACHODIMOS - Germany is dejected at full time as he is helped up by Antonio BRISENO - Mexico, Emotions, Captain's Armband, My Game is Fair Play.Mandatory Credit: Action Images / John Sibley

This was Vlachodimos’ last appearance on the global stage, although he did win the UEFA European U-21 Championship in 2017 with Germany, albeit without getting any playing time at the tournament.

In autumn 2018, the keeper opted to transfer his allegiance to his parents’ homeland, Greece, and in November of that year, he made his debut for his adopted country, describing it as "a great feeling".

Since then, Ody has become the undisputed number one and is dreaming of playing in his first major tournament at full international level. It remains to be seen, however, whether that will be as early as next year. In UEFA qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, John van't Schip’s side currently lie third in Group B. "The defeat at the hands of Sweden a few weeks ago dashed all our hopes," the frustrated keeper explained. "It’s no longer in our own hands and we’re now relying on our competitors slipping up."

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Thursday sees them take on group leaders Spain, before rounding out their qualifying campaign against Kosovo. "We definitely have a chance against Spain,” the 27-year-old insisted. “We want to put in a good performance and then see whether that gets us across the line in the end."

If they come up short this time around, then Vlachodimos will be able to focus his attention on a very special tournament that is just two years away now, with UEFA EURO 2024 set to be held in Germany, the country of his birth. "Our goal must be to ensure we’re there. It’s always special for me to play in Germany, and against Germany or German teams."

The latter have proved to be a thorn in the Greek goalkeeper’s side of late, having had to pick the ball out of the back of the net on no fewer than nine occasions in two games against Bayern Munich in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.

Last week’s match in Munich ended in a 5-2 defeat, with plenty of his family and friends watching on. "I had to ask for loads of tickets since Stuttgart to Munich is a relatively short drive," said Vlachodimos, whose Benfica team are currently third in the Portuguese championship behind Porto and Lisbon rivals Sporting. "We’re all neck-and-neck, so hopefully we can stay in the title race right to the end," he said of the domestic championship.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - OCTOBER 20: Leroy Sané of Bayern chips the ball over the Odisseas Vlachodimos of Benfica for Robert Lewandowski to score the fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League group E match between SL Benfica and Bayern München at Estadio da Luz on October 20, 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

That said, his focus for the coming week is on World Cup qualifying and finishing on a high note so as to carry momentum into EURO 2024 qualifying. "We have real potential in this squad, which is still very young,” he concluded. “Most of us play abroad and are accumulating a lot of experience, and that will help us in the future – hopefully as soon as two years’ time in Germany."