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Australia to face Greece in Sydney


Skibbe appointed new Greece manager

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Fernando Santos

Latest Team: Greece

2014 FIFA World Cup

  • 4GP
  • 1Won
  • 1Draw
  • 2Lost


Previous Clubs: Estoril, Estrela da Amorada, Porto, AEK Athens, Panathinaikos, Sporting Lisbon, Benfica, PAOK

Honours: Portuguese Liga: 1999; Portuguese Super Cup: 1999, 2000; Portuguese Cup: 2000, 2001; Greek Cup: 2002

It was never going to be an easy task for the man who followed European Championship winner Otto Rehhagel and the most successful spell in Greece's football history. Yet, Fernando Santos has not been burdened by the weight of expectation and the Portuguese coach steered Greece to their third World Cup finals appearance, courtesy of a 4-2 aggregate playoff victory over Romania.

The 59-year-old is likely to make his international swansong at this summer's tournament in Brazil after announcing that he will step down from the Greek national post after the Ethniki's campaign to return to club management.

Santos enjoyed a brief playing career in his native Portugal, where he represented Benfica's youth team as a full-back before joining Maritimo and later Estoril. However, Santos hung up his boots at the age of just 21 to focus on a career in technical engineering which he pursued for 10 years.

Returning to the football stage in 1987, Santos took over at former club Estoril, who he guided to the Portuguese top flight by means of two promotions in his seven-year stint. Another encouraging spell at Estrela da Amorada saw Santos handed the reins at domestic giants Porto in 1998 and he earned his first taste of silverware by claiming a Liga and Super Cup double in his debut season.

Touted as one of the most promising coaches in European football, Santos reclaimed the Portuguese Super Cup the following season and made up for a narrow second-place finish in the league by lifting the Portuguese Cup. His European stock also grew as a Mario Jardel-inspired Porto narrowly missed out on the 2001 Champions League semifinals -- courtesy of Thomas Linke's cruel 93rd minute winner for Bayern Munich.

Departing for AEK Athens at the end of that season, Santos again proved an instant success by leading the club to the Greek Cup, though missed out on the league title to Olympiakos on goal difference.

After brief spells with Panathinaikos and Sporting, Santos returned to AEK in 2004 to steady the ship after a turbulent period before moving on to coach Benfica. Missing out on Champions League qualification in his maiden season, Santos was controversially sacked just one game into the 2007-08 campaign after an opening draw against Leixoes.

Santos' final port of call was a return to Greece, where he dragged PAOK from mid-table obscurity to title-challenging heights, steering them to a second-place finish for the first time since 1985. Stepping down in May 2010, Santos was quickly handed the Greece national team post -- just nine days after King Otto's side crashed out of the World Cup at the group stage.

Despite the overwhelming feeling that Greece's golden generation was coming to an end, Santos had other ideas and breathed new life into the squad, taking Greece to their highest ever FIFA ranking of eighth after a run of 17 games without defeat.

An unbeaten Euro 2012 qualifying campaign saw Greece top the group ahead of Croatia and the Ethniki impressively made it through the group stages at the tournament in Poland and Ukraine. However, there was to be no repeat of their epic performance of 2004 as Greece suffered a hard-fought 4-2 quarterfinal defeat to Germany.

Despite Santos' insistence that he wants to mould his own Greece, the side are still built upon Rehhagel's strong defensive foundations. In World Cup 2014 qualifying, Greece possessed the lowest goals conceded to games ratio in the UEFA section, alongside Belgium, conceding just four goals in their ten qualifiers.

Santos has often stated that he prioritises tactics over technical ability and this philosophy has worked to his advantage as there are few better organised outfits than Greece, who limit space for their opponents and make the most of their rare chances. Greece claimed five of their eight qualifying victories by a 1-0 scoreline, while they amassed eight clean sheets and didn't concede a single goal at home during qualifying.

Despite missing out on an automatic place to Bosnia on goal difference, Greece eased past Romania in the playoffs to book their place in Brazil, where they were drawn alongside Colombia, Ivory Coast and Japan in Group C.

Although Greece are unlikely to strike fear into any of the main contenders at the World Cup, it would be foolish to rule out Fernando Santos' well-drilled team. If they can score the game's first goal, their strong defensive foundations may prove too difficult an obstacle for many teams to overcome.

Strengths: Santos possesses a good record in knockout competitions and has shown at various clubs that he can get the best out of his players despite the quality of the opposition.

Weaknesses: Often lacks a plan B and his counter-attacking style of play has come in for criticism.

Career High: Won the league and Super Cup double in his first season with Porto.

Career Low: Santos was expected to challenge for the Greek title when he took over at Panathinaikos in 2002 but he was sacked after losing three of his opening four league games.

Tactics: Santos deploys a 4-5-1 formation for Greece, which turns into a 4-3-3 when they attack. He has three central midfielders who look to sit deep and stifle the opposition before distributing the ball out wide on the counter-attack. They are not the most fluent and attacking-minded of sides but they are skilled at making the most out of their chances and frustrating the opposition by closing down space quickly.

Quotes: "Greece don't have a Messi, so it is tactics first and quality second, then team spirit, experience in high-profile matches and versatility." Fernando Santos reveals his Greek football philosophy.

Trivia: Santos used to be an animated chain-smoker on the touchline but has taken a more relaxed approach over the last few years and has recently finally started to speak Greek in public.

Words: Max Bentley