Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Greece v Spain: Webb given chance to bounce back after flak

The final Euro 2008 match in the city of Salzburg may be a dead rubber but Greece's valedictory encounter with already-qualified Spain will not be without interest.

For the Greeks the match offers the chance to say farewell to at least one of the heroes of their successful Euro 2004 campaign while the Spanish will be giving a run out to some less familiar names.

The tie also provides Howard Webb with the chance to show the controversy over his late penalty award against Poland last week has not unsettled him. The Yorkshire referee received death threats after the incident but Uefa backed up their verbal support by appointing him to tonight's match.

Webb is unlikely to provoke such extreme reactions this time. With Sunday's quarter-final in mind Spanish coach Luis Aragones is expected to field a reserve team. Greece, meanwhile, are already looking towards the 2010 World Cup qualifiers with the national football association reaffirming their support for coach Otto Rehhagel.

The German, like Aragones in his 70th year, has faced strong criticism in the Greek media but Vassilis Gagatsis, head of the Hellenic Football Federation, said, "We just signed a new contract and we will continue together until 2010. It is easy to change a coach but trust and continued support is what has kept this team together."

"We have to look to the future. We must give the team all it needs, that bit extra, so it can start its World Cup qualifying campaign fully focused," added Gagatsis.

"In Greece we have the tendency to flatten everything if it doesn't work, but he (Rehhagel) is the architect of Greek sports' biggest success."

Antonis Nikopolidis, who kept goal in 2004 but whose error against Russia prompted Greece's elimination this time, will be departing the scene, the 37-year-old having announced his international retirement. Defender Paraskevas Antzas will also quit and Gagatsis said, "I hope others won't follow," he said. "With the elimination still fresh in their minds, feelings tend to be very strong."

Aragones' revamp will mean Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas and Liverpool trio Xavi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa and Pepe Reina should make their first starts. Of greater interest to scouts will be the appearance of Real Mallorca forward Dani Guiza, last season's La Liga top scorer. Injury to Santi Carzorla means Andreas Iniesta is likely to be the only first XI player to start.

Probable teams:

Greece (4-4-2): Nikopolidis (Olympiakos); Vintra (Panathinaikos); Dellas (AEK Athens), Kyrgiakos (Eintracht Frankfurt), Spiropoulos (Panathinaikos); Katsouranis (Benfica), Basinas (Real Mallorca), Tziolis (Panathinaikos), Amanatidis (Eintracht Frankfurt); Charisteas (Nuremburg), Salpigidis (Panathinaikos).

Spain (4-2-3-1):Reina (Liverpool); Arbeloa (Liverpool), Juanito (Real Betis), Albiol (Valencia), Navarro (Real Mallorca); Xabi Alonso (Liverpool), De la Red (Getafe); Iniesta (Barcelona), Fabregas (Arsenal), Sergio Garcia (Real Zaragoza); Guiza (Real Mallorca)

Referee: H Webb (England)

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