PREVIEW : After host Portugal, Greece look to knock down Spain

Associated Press

Porto, June 15:

Greece has already toppled one Iberian giant — Portugal. Now it’s set on beating Spain when they meet on Wednesday in Group A. Spain, for its part, is hungry for revenge after losing to Greece in Euro 2004 qualifying and being forced to the playoffs. Spain and Greece share the lead in Group A with three points after winning their opening games. A victory for either would mean a giant step toward the quarter-finals. Greece can prove that its stunning opening day 2-1 win over the host nation wasn’t a fluke, while Spain will want to make up for the chances it squandered in its meager 1-0 win over outsider Russia.

The statistics favour the Spaniards, with five victories and just one defeat in seven meetings. But the Greeks, back in the Euros after 24 years, are on a roll after holding Portugal’s stars at bay. Rehhagel will not release his lineup until the last minute but few expect changes from the side that beat Portugal. Only Nikos Dabizas, who has a sore back, may have to sit out the match in Porto. Spain’s Saez, on the other hand, is expected to make at lest one major change to his lineup. Saez is likely to start Real Sociedad’s Xabi Alonso in midfield instead of yellow-carded Ruben Baraja. He has appealed for calm among the Spanish press which is clamoring for him to give a start to Deportivo midfielder Juan Carlos Valeron who scored the winning goal within a minute of coming on the pitch against Russia.

Portugal vs Russia

Lisbon: Losing to Greece shocked the whole of Portugal. Defeat by Russia would be a disaster. After the host’s 2-1 upset by Greece and Russia’s 1-0 loss to Spain on the opening day on Saturday both teams need a win to keep their chances alive at Euro 2004. It’s a must win game otherwise the host nation will almost certainly be watching the rest of the championship instead of playing in it. With older stars like Real Madrid’s Luis Figo and AC Milan’s Rui Costa below par, Portugal’s Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is under pressure to bring in his former countryman Deco into the midfield and add firepower by playing striker Nuno Gomes alongside Pedro Pauleta. Russia’s preparations have been marked by complaints about the baking weather and squabbles between coach Georgy Yartsev and his players.