Sunday 1 June 2008
Greece struggle to hit their stride
by Vassiliki Papantonopoulou

Defending champions Greece completed their friendly preparations for
UEFA EURO 2008??¢ with a goalless draw against Armenia in a match
high on effort but low on quality in Offenbach am Main in front of an
enthusiastic, largely Greek crowd.

Nikopolidis save
Otto Rehhagel's side had markedly improved defensively from their 3-2
loss against Hungary last Saturday, but struggled creatively and
threatened little around their opponents' area. Armenia started
brightly and had a good chance to go in front on 15 minutes when Levon
Pachajyan, after taking advantage of an error by Sotiris Kyrgiakos,
shot from the edge of the box only for Greece goalkeeper Antonis
Nikopolidis to save well at full stretch. Five minutes later,
Nikopolidis was called on again to block Marcos Piseli's long-range
effort.

Charisteas miss
Greece had their best chance on 30 minutes, when Giorgos Karagounis
worked space for himself and sent over a pin-point cross to Dimitris
Salpingidis, who headed just over. Two minutes later, Armenian
goalkeeper Gevorg Kasparov turned away Angelos Basinas's powerful
drive, then was thankful to see Angelos Charisteas shoot wide after
failing to properly deal with a Giourkas Seitaridis cross.

Substitutions
Rehhagel made five substitutions after the break and the rhythm
dropped as a consequence. Even so, Greece came close to breaking the
deadlock on 51 minutes, only for Kasparov to deny substitute Giorgos
Samaras's curling right-foot shot with a spectacular save. Ararat
Arakelyan then headed wide for Armenia on 85 minutes before producing
a more telling contribution at the other end, clearing under the nose
of Charisteas after Kasparov had been unable to gather Kostas
Katsouranis's stinging drive from distance. Greece leave Germany on
Tuesday morning and travel for Salzburg, where they play all their
Group D games, kicking off the defence of their title on 10 June
against Sweden.

Greece: Nikopolidis, Seitaridis, Kyrgiakos, Dellas (Antzas 46),
Spiropoulos (Torosidis 46), Basinas, Katsouranis, Karagounis
(Patsatzoglou 46), Charisteas, Salpingidis (Gekas 46), Amanatidis
(Samaras 46).

Armenia: Kasparov, Hovsepyan, Arzumanyan, Arakelyan, Voskanian, Hamlet
Mkhitaryan (A Minasyan 65), Ghazaryan (Melkonyan 60), Piseli (Hakobyan
54), Pachajyan, Lazarian, Tadevosyan.