In what promises to be a wild finish to a tight Group B, Greece will be hopeful of defeating a very impressive Argentinean squad and then receiving a helpful result from the Nigeria/South Korea fixture.
Greece looked as if they didn’t belong in South Africa following their opening match. A 2-0 defeat to South Korea left the nation reeling, while possessing very little hopes of advancing. Yet an impressive bounce back performance against the Nigerians has the Greeks right back into the thick of things. Heading into Group B action, both the Koreans and the Greeks are deadlocked on 3 points, yet Korea possesses the edge in goal differential. For Greece to have a realistic shot at advancing they’ll have to gain at least a point against Argentina, and hope for a Nigeria win over South Korea. Although the task at hand sounds daunting for the Greeks, expect Diego Maradona to rest the majority of his stars in preparation for their round of 16 clash as his side has already clinched the top spot in the group.
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Argentina vs Greece Odds:
Keys to the Game:
For Greece it will be imperative not to get in the habit of scoreboard watching. No matter how tantalizing the prospects in the other game are, the Nigeria/South Korea fixture cannot impact their performance. As is customary in large tournaments, FIFA plays the final group games simultaneously, but Greece must focus solely on what they can control. Coach Otto Rehhagel expressed his pleasure with the side following the win over Nigeria as it was Greece’s first ever at the World Cup, yet is aware that their task in South Africa is far from over. Although key absences will exist for Argentina, Greek midfielder Vassilis Torosidis believes that “Argentina will not play indifferently. Nobody comes to these games without wanting to win.” For Greece to gain a point here their defense will need to be absolutely impenetrable. When the likes of Messi, Milito, and Augero touch the ball, the Greek back-line and midfield will need to smother them and limit Argentine possession. Although it will be difficult to keep them off of the board, Greece must display heroic defending akin to their Euro 2004 performance, while mounting enough offense to generate a goal. Through their first two fixtures, the Greek attack has looked stagnant too often. Theofanis Gekas has struggled mightily up front, and despite his illustrious national record, he has failed to produce on the big stage. Gekas will have to be great if Greece wants to advance.
Argentina meanwhile will just look to stay focused and stay in-form to prepare for their second round fixture against either Mexico or Uruguay. Their chemistry may be off due to the number of new insertions to the starting lineup, yet the talent they possess will be no contest for a gritty Greek side. Just because the Argentines have nothing to really gain in this match, doesn’t mean they’ll simply rest and allow the Greeks to dictate the flow of the game. Star striker Carlos Tevez has vowed to attack the Greeks and display to the world the class of the Argentineans.
What to Expect:
Look for Maradona to leave usual starters Jonas Gutierrez, Walter Samuel, Gabriel Heinze, captain Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria, Carlos Tevez, and hat-trick hero Gonzalo Higuain. The majority of whom are nursing minor injuries or currently hold yellow cards to their name. Lionel Messi however, will remain in the Argentine lineup as Maradona is hopeful of seeing his star find his way to the score sheet. Don’t be surprised to see 36-year-old soccer icon Martin Palermo come into the game for a bit as Maradona will surely try and give all of his players a role in a rare meaningless game in an otherwise competitive World Cup. These are essentially wholesale changes for Argentina, yet don’t expect Greece to have the upper hand. With Diego Milito and Sergio Aguero now plying their trade up front, and Niclas Burdisso and Nicolas Otamendi along the Argentine back-line, they will still possess a world-class lineup capable of beating most first-string teams in the field. Expect these insertions to be well-rested and hungry, looking to make a mark on what could be their only action in this year’s World Cup.
Greece however desperately need a point in this tough fixture. Expect them to take a disciplined, team-first approach to combating the talented Argentine squad, and hope to hang on for a draw. Although they won’t be able to hold the Abcileste from getting onto the scoreboard, the Greeks should be able to capitalize on an unfamiliar Argentine lineup to muster some offensive chances of their own. Look for Greece to continue their miracle run against an Argentina squad playing without any genuine motivation, and then hope for the best from Nigeria in their match against South Korea.
Argentina vs Greece Prediction: Argentina 1 – Greece 1
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