Greece to rethink strategy after Sweden loss
SALZBURG, June 11 (Reuters) - Holders Greece will need to quit 'playing scared' and swiftly find their best form if they are to take their defence of the European Championship beyond the group stage.
A 2-0 defeat to Sweden on Tuesday left them needing points from both their remaining Euro 2008 Group D fixtures against Spain and Russia to qualify for the last eight.
The defending champions looked an uninspired side, lacking the passion and determination that drove them to their surprise victory four years ago.
'If we play like that we will not win any matches here,' coach Otto Rehhagel said.
But for the man who led the Greeks to victory in Portugal in 2004, it was as if the past had finally caught up with him.
Rehhagel opted to play with five defenders and two forwards to guard Swedish strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrik Larsson only to see both combine and the former to score Sweden's first goal in the 67th minute.
Sweden added a second five minutes later through Petter Hansson after a goalmouth scramble.
'We were playing scared. When you're always playing the ball backwards, you can't win a match,' striker Yannis Amanatidis said.
'We have to press forward. Attack is the best defence. We need to play forward. We've got to raise our game a notch in the days ahead.'
Greece forward Fanis Gekas looked terribly alone as his striking partner Angelos Haristeas essentially played as a midfielder, leaving the former Bundesliga top scorer no hope against a tight Swedish defence.
Rehhagel's 5-3-2 formation allowed the Swedes to take control of the midfield and make any rare Greek attack a hard-earned privilege.
'Our midfield did not operate as we had set out,' Rehhagel said.
The Greeks failed to carve out a single decent scoring chance, having problems getting the ball out of their own half.
Greece play Russia on June 14 and Spain four days later and will have to improve considerably it they want to have any hope of qualification
Spain crushed Russia 4-1 in the other group match on Tuesday.
'We had a bad match today,' said striker Giorgos Samaras, who came on as a substitute but failed to make any impact.
'But that is all in the past. It is up to us to reverse this situation.'
With criticism back home mounting to levels unseen in Rehhagel's seven-year tenure as head coach, the Greeks are now with their backs against the wall, needing to step up a gear and risk more.
Whether or not Rehhagel, renowned for his stubbornness, will heed his player's warnings remains unknown.
But if Greece continue playing like they did against Sweden, they will quickly play themselves out of the tournament and force Rehhagel, 69, to face his first tough questions upon his return to Greece.