Euro 2004 qualifier
Greece 0 - Spain 2
Patsatzoglou, Dabizas, Dellas, Fyssas (Vryzas 72'); Giannakopoulos; Zagorakis
(Basinas 46'), Konstantinidis (Karagounis 42'), Tsartas; Haristeas, Nikolaidis.
The fans can breath a sigh of relief. Iñaki Sáez's Spain passed their first test winning a tricky opening game in the Euro 2004 qualifiers against probably their most serious rivals, Greece. Sáez kept faith with the group of young players he drafted in for the friendly game at Hungary, with none of the back four having played in the recent World Cup. They proved him right however, and took advantage of the few chances offered to them by a combative Greek side to take an invaluable three points.
Real Madrid's Raúl was given the striker's role to make room for Valerón, and with only eight minutes gone a defensive mistake gifted the ball to the Depor midfielder for him to set up his new captain to score with his unfavoured right foot. It was Raúl's 29th international goal in 56 games, and takes him level with Hierro as Spain's all time top scorer.
However half time substitute Basinas almost levelled the scores with a shot against the bar, and with Spain losing the ball in midfield and Joaquín disappointingly absent, Sáez turned to the more experienced Mendieta and Baraja to restore control. Then with a quarter of an hour to go Raúl returned the earlier favour, laying the ball back for Valerón to blast the ball past Nikopolidis.
It was enough to knock the stuffing out of their opponents, and although García Calvo had to head off the line from Vryzas five minutes from the end, Spain held on for a vital victory. They end the day already top of their group after Armenia and Ukraine drew 2-2 in the other group 6 match, and can go in with confidence to their next fixture against Northern Ireland in Albacete on 12th October.
Note: Our international reporters Borja Pantzov and Goran Arsic are apparently still on holiday, even though they should have reported in some time ago. Anyone knowing their whereabouts should call us immediately. The public are warned not to go near them though, as they can be pretty unpleasant when they have had a couple of drinks.