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World Cup 2014: Greece national soccer team guide

GREECE HOPE TO BUILD ON PAST PROGRESS

The team that is seldom given a chance in international tournaments, and yet one that's bucked the odds in the past, is back once again. Greece have qualified for their second consecutive World Cup, and will be looking to qualify for the knockout stage for the first time. They may not be the neutrals' choice, but they can't be counted out.

WORLD CUP PROSPECTS

To no one's surprise, Greece are the underdogs in their group once again. It's a role they're comfortable with, but that may not count for much stacked up against the quality of the other three teams in Group C. Getting a second World Cup win in team history would be a laudable feat for this side.

GROUP C SCHEDULE

June 14: vs. Colombia, Belo Horizonte
June 19: vs. Japan, Natal
June 24: vs. Ivory Coast, Fortaleza

WHO GOT THEM THEM THERE

Kostas Mitroglou, F, Olympiacos (at left): The 25-year-old was in fine form six months ago, but has faltered since a January move to Fulham. Born in Greece but raised in Germany, Mitroglou led the Greeks in scoring during qualification, including three goals in the playoff games against Romania.

Georgios Karagounis, M, Fulham: Brazil 2014 will surely be the last time on the international stage for the 36-year-old, who has been a fixture on the national team since 1999. The captain has shown a penchant for raising his game with his country in the past, and Greece will need him to have a big tournament once again.

Orestis Karnezis, GK, Granada: When a team is so reliant on defense to get results, a quality goalkeeper is even more important, and Karnezis featured in every match for Greece during qualification (see video scouting report). The 28-year-old is largely untested and rarely getting a game on the club front, however, so he will need to be at his very best to give Greece hope of advancing in Brazil.

THE COACH

Fernando Santos, hired July 1, 2010, had big shoes to fill in charge of Greece following the successful tenure of Otto Rehhagel, who led them to their historic Euro 2004 title. Santos has spent his entire coaching career in his native Portugal and Greece, coaching Greek club sides AEK Athens, Panathinaikos, and PAOK prior to his appointment as national team boss.

Though he couldn't replicate Rehhagel's Euro triumph, he did lead Greece to a quarterfinal run at Euro 2012. While the team still prioritizes defense, they seem to score somewhat more easily under Santos.

HOW THEY QUALIFIED

WCQ record: 8-1-1, 25 pts. / 12 GF, 4 GA (second place in Europe's Group G, defeated Romania in playoff)

The Greeks finished level on points with Bosnia-Herzegovina atop their qualifying group with identical records, but finished second by virtue of goal difference. That meant they had to go to one of the European playoffs, where they faced Romania, and dominated them in both legs, winning 4-2 on aggregate. Given Greece's reputation as a goal-shy side, their 3-1 win in the first leg of the playoff turned heads.

WORLD CUP HISTORY
Third appearance

Greece have qualified for consecutive World Cups for the first time in their history. They have not advanced past the group stage in their previous two appearances, in 1994 and 2010, but they did notch their first World Cup win in South Africa, defeating Nigeria 2-1.

MLS/USA CONNECTIONS

Greece and the USMNT have only played once, a 1-1 draw in Connecticut in 1994 ahead of the World Cup. Former Chicago Fire player and coach Frank Klopas, who was born in Greece, scored for the US in that match ... Vasilis Torosidis started and played the entire match in defense for AS Roma at the 2013 MLS All-Star Game in Kansas City ... Greek-born Pari Pantazopoulos won an open tryout with the Chicago Fire in 2011 and signed a contract with the team, but never played an MLS match ... Greek-American George John (FC Dallas), who has stated his willingness to play for Greece, was invited to train with them in 2011 ... Former MLS players Alexi Lalas and Greg Lalas are Greek-American ... Peter Philipakos, born and raised in New York, played in Greece for several clubs between 2004-12 ... Greek-American Peter Skouras played professionally in Greece 1984-89.