Greece coach Otto Rehhagel is not expecting a walkover in tonight’s final Group A encounter against a Russian team already eliminated from the competition.
Greece have taken Euro 2004 by surprise, having defeated hosts Portugal with a 2-1 win in the opening game of the tournament and held highly-rated Spain to a 1-1 draw.
“I have told my boys that I played against Russians often in my career and that they are extraordinary players, with an extraordinary football education,” Rehhagel.
“We, in turn, must put in an extraordinary performance to make our Lisbon dream come true,” he said referring to the looming prospect of a place in the last eight.
Greece, joint leaders of the group with Spain on four points, need just a point against Russia to qualify for the knock out stage.
“The team has accomplished big things and if we don’t make it to Lisbon it will still be an achievement,” said Rehhagel.
“But we will be bitterly disappointed if we miss this unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (to qualify),” he added, banging his hand on the table.
Rehhagel will be without two first-choice midfielders against Russia with Stelios Giannakopoulos injured and Giorgos Karagounis suspended. The absence of Karagounis in particular, is a huge blow for the Greeks.
Nonetheless, Rehhagel did not seem unduly concerned by the loss of the pair.
“We have 23 people and they all must prove why we took them with us to Portugal,” he said.
Giorgos Georgiadis and Vassilis Tsartas are likely to replace the missing duo.
Even though his team have already been eliminated from the tournament, Russia coach Georgi Yartsev said his side will be playing to win their final game.
“Those who think we’ll just be walking around in the third game – they’re going to make a huge mistake,” said Yartsev.
“We’ll fight. We need to score goals and win points in this competition, and that’s what we’ll aim to do.
“The game is going to be crucial in the group. It can influence the position and the future of all the teams.”
Yartsev, whose position has come under threat as a result of some undistinguished performances from his team, is happy to carry full responsibility for Russia’s failings.
“We win together and we lose together. In my life, in my job, I follow one principle – I’m totally responsible for what I do, for what the team achieves.
“I will never blame my players whether their performances are acceptable or even in bad games.
“That’s not just a declaration, not a position, it’s the principle which I follow and will follow for the rest of my life.
“I’ve chosen these players to come to Euro 2004 and I’m responsible totally. It’s my fault if we don’t win the game.”
For Russia, goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev is set to replace Sergei Ovchinnikov, who was unfortunate to be sent off in the previous game against Portugal, while Roman Sharonov will come in for suspended captain Alexei Smertin.
Russia (4-4-2); 12-Vyacheslav Malafeyev; 14-Alexander Anyukov, 13-Roman Sharonov, 21-Alexei Bugayev, 16-Vadim Yevseyev; 19-Vladimir Bystrov, 20-Dmitry Loskov, 15-Dmitry Alenichev, 5-Andrei Karyaka; 11-Alexander Kerzhakov, 3-Dmitry Sychev.
Greece (4-4-2): 1-Antonis Nikopolidis; 2-Yourkas Seitaridis, 19-Michalis Kapsis, 5-Traianos Dellas, 14-Takis Fyssas; 17-Giorgos Georgiadis, 21-Costas Katsouranis, 7-Theodoros Zagorakis (captain), 10-Vassilis Tsartas; 15-Zisis Vryzas, 9-Angelos Haristeas.
Referee: Gilles Veissiere (France)