Greece attempts speed learning
Georgios Samaras (AFP)
Cape Town - Greece are trying to quickly shed their defensive-minded image at the World Cup following their last-gasp win over the Ivory Coast on Tuesday as they prepare for confident Costa Rica in their last 16 match on Sunday.
Greece coach Fernando Santos and his players said they had so far been misinterpreted at the finals with the team more eager to go forward than in past tournaments.
"I don't think we have been playing defensively at this World Cup," said forward Giorgos Samaras, who converted their stoppage time penalty to edge past the Africans 2-1 and move into the second round for the first time.
"We lost 3-0 to Colombia in our (Group C) opener but we kept going forward in that game. Against Japan we really did not have any choice after being left with 10 men but even then we tried to hit them on the break."
Greece were caught napping several times in their opener against group winners Colombia, with the players putting it down to nerves. They then had captain Kostas Katsouranis sent off late in the first half against Japan and ended up defending frantically for the remainder of the game.
Against Ivory Coast, however, they arguably played their most aggressive game in years, hitting the woodwork three times before scoring the winner on the final whistle despite having two players taken off injured in the opening 24 minutes.
"We could have and should have finished the game off earlier when leading 1-0. We were going forward, attacking and were unlucky to hit the post and the bar three times," Samaras said.
"It was us who were controlling the game and going forward all the time."
The Greeks will now face Costa Rica, who stunned former World Cup winners Uruguay 3-1 and Italy 1-0 with a dazzling attacking display before drawing 0-0 with England to top their group.
Greece, by comparison, have managed two goals in the tournament, as many as they had scored in all of their eight previous World Cup games combined.
Defence seems to be in their blood with the overwhelming majority of Greek players competing for clubs in Europe being either defenders or holding midfielders.
"I have been accused for the style of football that my team is playing," coach Fernando Santos said. "But we are not only about defending, we are also about attacking.
"We showed against Ivory Coast how well we can defend but also how good we can be in attack. We created a lot of chances and we kept attacking until the end. Even when we conceded the 74th minute equaliser, we continued to attack."