Tue, Jun 10, 2008 - Page 18 News List

Greeks, Swedes set for physical battle

DEFENDING CHAMPSGreece are keen to show their success four years ago was no fluke against a Sweden side likely to be the weakest they face in Group D

AP , LUGANO, SWITZERLAND

Greek forward Angelos Charisteas gives a press conference before a training session at Seekirchen sports center in Austria on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

Greece start their European Championship title defense against a Sweden team with similar strengths and tactics.

Both teams are tall, strong and robust in defense. Both are happy to let the opponents have the ball, while awaiting the right moment for a speedy counter-strike. The stage is set for a physical battle in Salzburg today, where set pieces could play a deciding role.

“They are really good in the air and they are really good in dead-ball situations so that’s a factor that you have to keep in mind when you pick the starting 11,” Sweden coach Lars Lagerback said.

Both teams have trained behind closed doors in the run-up to the Group D encounter, careful not to release too many hints about lineups or tactics.

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel is likely to see Sweden as the weakest opponent in the group, with Spain considered favorites to advance.

Russia were the only team to beat Greece at Euro 2004.

His main worry is the fitness of playmaker Giorgos Karagounis, who is recovering from a right knee injury and only returned to regular training on Friday.

The Greeks are eager to show their stunning performance four years ago was not a fluke, while the Swedes are counting on the firepower of strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and veteran Henrik Larsson to ruffle the title holders.

“The Swedes play a physical Scandinavian game but also very skilled,” Greece reserve goalkeeper Costas Chalkias said. “They of course have two stars — Ibrahimovic and Larsson — but if we pay too much attention to them, someone else might slip through.’’

Both Sweden and Greece put in lackluster performances in their final warm-up matches. Greece lost to Hungary 3-2 and drew with Armenia 0-0. Sweden beat Slovenia 1-0 but lost by the same score to Ukraine.

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