After cruising through a potentially tricky play-off tie against Romania in November, Greece are heading to the FIFA World Cup finals for only the third time the nation’s history. Coincidentally, the tournament in Brazil will be something of an unofficial 10-year anniversary for the country’s historic UEFA EURO 2004 triumph.

This is a far different side to the one that took Portugal and Europe by storm, however, with mercurial talent Kostas Mitroglou embodying the more youthful and unpredictable nature of this current Greece team. Midfielders Kostas Katsouranis and Georgios Karagounis – veterans of the 2004 tournament – still remain.

Portuguese coach Fernando Santos tends to gamble with three strikers in his starting line-up and all of Mitroglou, Dimitris Salpingidis and Theofanis Gekas contributed with crucial goals during qualifying. It is in defence, however, where Greece boast their most talented individuals, with starlets Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Sokratis Papastathopoulos marshalling the back four.

Greek fans have become accustomed to a more fluid, possession-based approach under Santos and his team will be expected to progress from Group C. “it is very evenly matched group,” the coach said. “None of the teams can be considered favourites, but they are all tough opposition. All four countries are happy with the draw. It is going to be very open, and anyone can beat anyone else.”

COACH>>

FERNANDO SANTOS

Succeeding Otto Rehhagel would have been difficult for any of the world’s top coaches but Santos has enjoyed considerable success since replacing the legendary German. He has overseen a generational and philosophical transition while leading Greece to the quarter-finals of UEFA EURO 2012.

Fixtures Group C

Colombia
Belo Horizonte 14 June 2014

Japan
Natal 20 June 2014

Cote d’Ivoire
Fortaleza 25 June 2014

*Dates are AEST

Tournament history
Previous tournaments: 2

2010 FIFA World Cup performance
Group stage

Best performance
Group stage, 1994, 2010

How they qualified
Second, European Group G
Beat Romania in play-offs