5 things to know about Greece, the Blues’ last opponent in 2023

The France team will close its Euro 2024 qualifiers with a trip to Greece on Tuesday (8:45 p.m.). A nation chasing its former glory.

Greece already back in dams

No stakes in Athens this Tuesday: France has already qualified for Euro 2024 and Greece knows that it will have to go through the play-offs. 3rd in group B (4 victories and 3 defeats), it can no longer catch up with the Netherlands. She now waits impatiently the draw for the play-offs on Thursday in order to know their opponent in the semi-final of path C, which also includes Georgia, Kazakhstan and Luxembourg. The play-offs will not take place until March 2024.

A slow sporting decline since Euro 2004

Almost 20 years ago, Greece was on the roof of Europe to everyone’s surprise, beating Portugal in the final of Euro 2004 in Lisbon (1-0). The start of a promising era, with honest campaigns at Euro 2012 (quarter-final) and the 2014 World Cup (round of 16). But since then, Greece has not played a single major tournament. “There has never been good infrastructure, and with the economic crisis many investments in football have been cut», regretted Giorgos Karagounis for So Foot in June.

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The most capped player in the history of the selection (139 matches), European champion in 2004, Karagounis notes that “it’s very difficult to build, much easier to destroy“. In February 2022, Greece appointed Uruguayan Gustavo Poyet as coach, former coach of Bordeaux (2018). Failing to get out of the next play-offs, where its strongest opponent on paper will be Georgia (76e in the FIFA rankings), would be a dismal failure.

Who are his star players?

If Greece, 51e world nation, is in the sporting situation that we have described, it is also because it does not have high-sounding names. If we had to name a star, it would be Liverpool’s replacement left-back, Kostas Tsimikas, seen against Toulouse in the Europa Conference League on November 9 (TFC victory 3-2). Aged 27, he won the FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield with the Reds in 2022.

Kostas Tsimikas with Liverpool in October 2023. David Blunsden / Action Plus / Panoramic

For the rest, we can think of the captain of the selection, the attacking midfielder Anastasios Bakasetas (Basaksehir), the West Ham defender Kostas Mavropanos or the center forward Vangelis Pavlidis, not necessarily a starter with Greece despite his 13 goals in 11 Dutch league matches, at AZ Alkmaar.

Why the nickname “pirate ship”?

They are called “Piratiko”, or “the pirate ship”. Rarely used, this nickname for the Greece team was born in 2004, after its victory in the opening match of the Euro against Portugal, the host country (1-2). During the opening ceremony, a replica of a large ship was deployed in reference to Portugal’s maritime heritage.

Greece’s surprise victory inspired journalists to call the players pirates and the team a pirate ship. A nickname that would have been forgotten if Greece had not ped the first round of the Euro. But she continued to amaze Europe until she found Portugal in the final, for another victory against the run of play.

Greece, bad memory for France

You haven’t finished hearing about Euro 2004 in this article. The French team of Thuram, Zidane and Henry, crowned four years earlier, fell hard against the Greece of Angelos Charisteas, the only header in the quarter-final (0-1). This is the only clash between the two nations outside of friendly and playoff matches, and the only defeat for the Blues in 9 matches (7 wins, one draw).

Last June, France won at the end of a sluggish performance (1-0) on a penalty from Kylian Mbappé. The trip to Athens this Tuesday, however, has nothing in common. The Blues have not played in Greece since September 2, 1972. It was a friendly match in Piraeus won by France (1-3) with goals from Henri Michel, Hervé Revelli and Jean-Michel Larqué.

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