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 Posted by Chris Paraskevas
Jun 17, 2014

Significant changes needed for Greece

Greece defender resumed their early evening training session in good spirits. Despite the defeat to Colombia in their opening game, defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos is still enjoying his 2014 FIFA World Cup experience.

Without wanting to revert to the old "treat it like a Cup final" cliche, Greece's upcoming group game with Japan is about as big as it's going to get for Fernando Santos' side.

After being rolled 3-0 by Colombia, there is no margin for error against the Japanese, and there's only a short amount of time for key changes to be made to this Greek side if they are to keep their World Cup alive.

Indeed, Santos' post-match comments have suggested players will be dropped against Japan, something the Greek media has picked up on quickly (perhaps out of hope more than expectation, in some instances).

Here are some of the changes that we could very well see against Japan.

Out: Jose Holebas, In: Georgios Tzavellas

Left-back Jose Holebas was widely identified as the weak link in the Greek defence before the tournament began. He did nothing to dispel such claims with an uncomfortable performance against the Colombians in which he had a big part to play in the first goal conceded. The Olympiacos defender isn't good enough for this level of football, and it is anticipated that Tzavellas -- a steadier option -- will now replace him.

- Santos: No excuse for defeat
- Paraskevas: Embarrassment of '94 haunts Greece

Out: Theofanis Gekas, In: Kostas Mitroglou

A no-brainer, really, given Gekas' non-display in Belo Horizonte. It's amazing that the former Portsmouth player has kept his international career alive for this long, but his statuesque appearance betrayed his age and lack of sharpness. He missed an open goal before being replaced by Mitroglou, who offers more mobility and physical presence.

Santos didn't want to gamble on the Fulham striker's fitness against Colombia, but the Portuguese coach now has little choice. He needs his attacking talisman to fire against Japan and spark a docile Greek frontline.

Out: Dimitris Salpingidis, In: Ioannis Fetfatzidis

Salpingidis has for so long been a consistent performer for Greece, scoring goals in big qualifying games and at two major tournaments (if you count the heavily deflected strike against Nigeria). He was off the pace against Colombia and not his usual self, struggling to get into the game on the right flank. Fetfatzidis replaced him, and although he made little impact, is deserving of a start for the form he has shown in recent friendlies alone.

In: Georgios Karagounis

Now this is a tricky one for Santos, who was criticized in some quarters for not starting his captain in the first game. At the age of 37, Karagounis probably doesn't have the legs for a full game, but his cameo against Colombia is of no real use to Greece, either. It might just be worth chancing the veteran in the first half against Japan, and he is apparently pushing for a starting place. Greece could use his energy, drive and quality on the ball. The big question is, who will he replace in midfield?

Chris Paraskevas

Chris Paraskevas is editor of FootballHellas, an English language website for Greek football, and has also worked for Goal.com and ESPN. You can follow him on twitter @cparaskevas