This series of articles will celebrate (or laugh at) some of the worst professional sports teams of all time. I will focus on teams within my lifetime so expect the worst from the 1970s to present day.
There is no doubt that the country of Greece has provided a sporting legacy which is second to none. After all, this is the country where the Olympics were brought to life. Even going back to the days of Athens and Sparta, sport provided a welcome respite to the tensions of these two historical cities.
However, when it comes to the globe’s most popular sport, Greece did not possess the powers of Zeus or any other Greek God. Football success had been lacking in Greece, until they qualified for the 1994 World Cup, the first time the country qualified for the planet’s biggest sporting event. Key victories over Hungary and Luxembourg assured Greece a spot in the tournament.
However, a controversial decision by manager Alketas Panagoulias set the tone for the Greeks in the tournament. Panagoulias decided to take a veteran squad to USA 94 instead of young talent who had bright futures ahead of them. Panagoulias reason for this was, he wanted to reward the older players for loyalty and to give them the experience of playing in a World Cup. That decision proved to be fatal for the Greeks.
It didn’t help that Greece were drawn in a very difficult group. Argentina, led by the legendary Diego Maradona, Bulgaria, led by the brilliant Hristo Stoichkov, and rising African power Nigeria joined Greece in Group D. The task of advancing past the group stage would be an arduous one. The task became hopeless once the games were played on the pitch.
Greece opened their World Cup account against Argentina, who won the World Cup back in 1986, and made it to the final in 1990. Besides Maradona, Argentina were boasting young strikers Gabriel Batistuta and Claudio Caniggia to assist the magician known as Maradona. On this day, it was Batistuta who reigned supreme. It only took 90 seconds for Batistuta to shred the Greek defence before sliding one to the back of the net to give Argentina the lead. It was lights out for Greece after that. The young Batistuta added two more strikes, giving him the hat-trick, while Maradona supplied a smashing left footed strike at the hour mark, to give Argentina an emphatic 4-0 win. The Greeks looked helpless against the blue and white wave known as Argentina. Things wouldn’t get any better.
Up next for Greece was Bulgaria who were terrible in their first match, a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Nigeria. The Bulgarians wanted to make amends, and thanks to Stoichkov, they did. In the fifth minute, Bulgaria were rewarded with a penalty as Greece were charged with a hand ball following a corner. Stoichkov promptly scored on the penalty to give Bulgaria an early lead. Stoichkov scored a second from the spot as Greece keeper Elias Atmatzidis pulled down Nasko Sirakov in the box. Bulgaria added two more goals to thrash Greece 4-0. This game was particularly embarrassing for the Greeks as some experts picked them to win this match. Instead they looked overmatched and ill-prepared.
The final match for Greece was against Nigeria. The Super Eagles needed a win to advance to the round of 16. Greece were hoping to avoid further embarrassment. Truth be told, Greece did play their best game of the tournament. But it wasn’t good enough. Fidini George found the back of the net at the stroke of halftime to give The Super Eagles the lead. Daniel Amokachi finished the scoring in the 90th minute with a splendid goal, worthy of high accolades.
Greece were finished. They lost all three games in their tournament and were outscored 10-0 in those three games. They didn’t have a chance. Most of the players never played internationally again. It seemed like Greece would go into oblivion in the soccer universe.
That would change 10 years later at Euro 2004. Greece shocked the soccer world, by winning the European Championship, despite being 150-1 longshots in the tournament. This put Greece on the map in the football world and they have shown that there is hope for all nations. Greece did return to the World Cup in 2010, but were eliminated in the Group Stage. However, their showing was much better than in 1994. Greece were drawn into a favourable group in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Expect the Greeks to be in Brazil in two years time.
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