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By ESPN Staff

Karagounis demands response after Euro flop

Giorgos Karagounis is aiming to banish the memory of Greece's shocking performance at Euro 2008 when they begin their World Cup qualifying campaign against Luxembourg on Saturday.

The 2004 European champions lost all of their group games in Austria and Switzerland and the Panathinaikos star knows they cannot afford to take Luxembourg lightly if they are to make amends.

He told the Kathmerini newspaper: 'We have to win on Saturday. All opponents can be difficult but we have to find a way past them.

'We managed to qualify for the European Championships because we did not drop any points away from home against lower-ranked opposition and our rivals did.'

Coach Otto Rehhagel was criticised in the run-up to Euro 2008 for selecting an ageing side, but Greece's embarrassment in the summer has forced the German to rethink his selection policy.

Rehhagel has brought in 18-year-old Sotiris Ninis in place of veteran Stelios Giannakopoulos, and this week called up 20-year-old AEK Athens youngster Vassilis Pliatsikas to replace the injured Ioannis Amanatidis.

'My inclusion in the Greece squad is a great honour for me,' Pliatsikas said.

'I want to thank Otto Rehhagel for inviting me to join the squad, I now have an even stronger incentive to work harder to prove the coach right for picking me.'

Switzerland are another team with a point to prove after a poor showing at Euro 2008 and new coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is determined to begin his reign with a win against Israel.

However, the former Bayern Munich boss has to contend with injuries to several key players including captain Alex Frei, striker Eren Derdiyok and AC Milan defender Philippe Senderos.

Hitzfeld is also aware of his adopted nation's high expectations after the Swiss qualified for Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup before reaching Euro 2008 as hosts.

'Switzerland, obviously, doesn't have as large a pool of players as the bigger nations so we have to start well and hope the players stay in good form and play regularly for their clubs,' he said.

'I know how to deal with high expectations but I also know you can only hope to meet such expectations through a lot of hard work.'

He added: 'I don't think many of our World Cup qualifying opponents can say they have been to three straight major tournaments which shows that the work of Kobi Kuhn should not be taken for granted.'

In the final match in Group Two, Latvia travel to Moldova.


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