Greece vs. Bolivia
Road To Brazil Series
June 6 | 8 pm ET| Red Bull Arena - Harrison, NJ
TV: beIN Sports, Univision Dep.
Can Greece score a goal? Tuesday's 0-0 draw against Nigeria at PPL Park was the Greeks' third straight match without a goal despite threatening on numerous occasions, including long-distance shots and weaving runs by dribbler extraordinaire Giannis Fetfatzidis. It won't get any easier against a Bolivia team that effectively limited the damage against defending World Cup champions Spain last Friday (2-0 loss in Seville).
GLASS HALF-FULL: Although the scoring struggles capture all the headlines, Greece head coach Fernando Santos is upbeat about his team's showing against Nigeria. "I think we were able to give joy to the Greeks who watched the national team," he said after the scoreless draw in Philly.
In his defense, Santos doesn't have many elite scorers to choose from among his forward quartet. Since joining Fulham in January, Kostas Mitroglou has played in just three matches, Georgios Samaras has scored a grand total of three goals for Celtic in that same span and Dimitris Salpingidis is often employed as a winger on his club team PAOK. That leaves 34-year-old Fanis Gekas, who plays for Turkish mid-table side Konyaspor (13 goals in 24 matches), as their most dangerous option.
But no one on the squad looks to be sweating it. Here they are taking a stroll on US soil in an official video named "Streets of Philadelphia". Clever.
STAND-IN FOR COLOMBIA?: You figure that Bolivia is meant to give the Greeks a taste of South American soccer ahead of their first World Cup Group C match against Colombia on Saturday, June 14. Except that Bolivia's playing style really mirrors their position as one of the minnows of CONMEBOL (tied for last in qualifying): tactical discipline and organization. And it's implemented by a European tactician – Spaniard, Xabier "El Bigoton" Azkargorta, who's been around the block. He managed Bolivia 20 years ago at the '94 World Cup in the USA.
WHO ARE THESE GUYS?: Of the 20 men on Bolivia's roster, 18 play in the domestic league. But if the only Bolivian player you know to this day is still Marco Etcheverry – he's been retired for nearly a decade – get familiar with the name Marcelo Martins, a forward who plays for Brazilian club Cruzeiro. He's big on social media:
Passeando com meus companheiros de Seleção por NY! pic.twitter.com/9FR9gc8bLc— Marcelo Moreno (@MM9oficial) June 2, 2014
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- Giorgos Karagounis, midfielder, Greece – The stocky 37-year-old wears the captain's armband with swagger. He knows he's still arguably the best player on the Greek squad and he plays like it. Whether he's dribbling, lining up free kicks or taking daring shots from distance, it's always entertaining. After finishing his contract with English side Fulham, could MLS be next for him?
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- Ioannis Fetfatzidis, winger, Greece – The man who is a candidate to take the mantle from Karagounis is the left-footed Fetfatzidis, who plays for Italian club Genoa. Like Karagounis, the 23-year-old is short (5-foot-5) and plays with personality. He hasn't met an opponent he couldn't dribble past. Here's why they call him the "Greek Messi."