Greece’s new coach, Fernando Santos, said this week that it is time to bid farewell to the Otto Rehhagel era by changing the team’s formation, although he intends to stick with a predominantly defensive philosophy.

Ahead of his first game in charge of the national team, a friendly against Serbia in Belgrade on August 11, the Portuguese coach said that he would ditch the 4-3-3 formation favoured by Rehhagel in favour of a flexible 4-4-2 lineup, playing a diamond in midfield.

“We don’t have much time ahead of the Serbia game and it’s a difficult period because some players are behind in their fitness training,” said Santos. “However, we have picked the best players in Greece, so I think they’ll adapt quickly to what we demand of them.

Santos made a bold statement by including three uncapped youngsters in his squad: Panathinaikos midfielder Stergos Marinos, defender Savvas Gentzoglou of AEK and Olympiakos’ 21-year-old midfielder Yiannis Papadopoulos.

The former AEK and PAOK manager said that he has tried to pick players that suit the system he wants to play, rather than the 4-3-3 set-up that Rehhagel stuck by.

“We want to give them a chance and see if they can adapt to this new philosophy,” said Santos.

Santos also said that Greece would ditch the man-to-man marking that his German predecessor relied on in favour of a zonal system. “Regardless of whether our opponent is Lionel Messi or Pele, we will not use man-to-man,” he said.

“Mr Rehhagel’s tenure was a success and we should not forget that we have to move on now with my philosophy, which I am hoping to pass onto the players.”

Santos developed a reputation, particularly during his most recent coaching job at PAOK, for having well-drilled defences and he indicated during his news conference that he would continue to emphasise the defensive aspects of the game, with his teams also relying on counter attacks.

He likened the style he would like to see Greece play to how last season’s Champions League winners Inter Milan performed in the latter stages of the competition.

“If we are facing a strong opponent, we will attack less compared to when we face weaker opponents,” he said. “Remember that Inter did not play all-out attack in the Champions League final. Also, in the semis, they played defensively and relied on counter-attacks.”

Eight of the players included in Greece’s World Cup squad were left out of the team this time around, but Santos said that he is not ruling any of them out for the future.

The recall for AEK midfielder Pantelis Kafes may come as a surprise despite his excellent form. The 32-year-old makes it into the national squad after two years on the sidelines.


Goalkeepers: Michael Sifakis (Aris), Alexandros Tzorvas (Panathinaikos)

Defenders: Sotiris Kyrgiakos (Liverpool), Stelios Malezas (PAOK), Giannis Maniatis (Panionios), Nikos Spyropoulos, Lukas Vyntra (both Panathinaikos), Avraam Papadopoulos, Vasilis Torosidis (both Olympiakos), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (AC Milan)

Midfielders: Kostas Katsouranis, Giorgos Karagounis, Sotiris Ninis, Stergos Marinos (all Panathinaikos), Giorgos Tzavellas (Panionios), Savvas Gentzoglou, Pantelis Kafes (both AEK), Giannis Papadopoulos (Olympiakos)

Forwards: Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK), Fani