Ethniki looking for an “Anastasi” via their new “Angelo”
In the final edition of a three-part blog series, AGONAsport’s Sarantos Kaperonis talks about the future of the Greek national team with new coach Angelos Anastasiadis and the EPO’s continuous questionable actions which symbolize their intentions. Read parts one and two here.
In the opening sections of this three-part blog series it is clearly explained that the Ethniki sits last on the current EPO’s priority list. The national side is something which they do not value, respect, or care for, despite it being the country’s most important team. Blame is thrown left and right, but where is Grammenos and the EPO to speak up and take the responsibility for their actions (or lack of them)?
Anyone that has any interest in the Ethniki would hope that the EPO would at least put some effort into caring for the national team. Yes, Skibbe is gone. Great. Problem solved? Absolutely not. Angelos Anastasiadis is the new coach. Will he be successful? Possibly. But for the matters of this article, that is not the point.
Let me make myself clear. I am not in favor, nor against, the appointment of Angelos Anastasiadis. But why was he chosen? Because he’s Greek? Then why not Giannis Anastasiou, Michalis Grigoriou, or Nikos Alefantos? Yes, the last name is a bit of sarcasm. What was the EPO’s reasoning behind this decision? What is their plan, their goals, their decision-making process in picking the new coach? Where they looking for something specific in the new coach that made Anastasiadis stand out from the other candidates? Were there even other candidates in with a realistic chance? According to reports, it was either Anastasiadis or Anastasiou that would be given the job, but the federation didn’t even contact the latter. Why? Would it take up too much time which was set aside for the EPO’s real priorities? Or was Anastasiadis chosen because he is cheap, a “kalo paidi” and a well known acquaintance to Grammenos? I sure hope not, although without any sort of reasoning or strategic plan from the federation, one can only assume this approach. Who picked Anastasiadis? Grammenos? The Board of Directors? The technical director?
Why are there so many questions? Because there is no plan or logic behind the decision. Why? Because the Ethniki is not important to this EPO. It’s as if the Ethniki is a waste of their time. To put it in perspective, Anastasiadis has already been chosen for the job, unofficially appointed, while the matters surrounding Skibbe’s contract (i.e compensation fee) have yet to be solved! When you think about it, it’s quite unbelievable.
For those that know Greek football, they can say that Anastasiadis is one of the best coaches to emerge from the country. Living and breathing football, he’s endured both with successful and unsuccessful spells at various organisations, winning the 2003 Greek Cup with PAOK. No one can doubt his ability to read a game and prepare exceptionally for it. He was one of the best at it. But can his tactics keep up with ever-changing modern game of football? That will be seen on the pitch.
At club level, Anastasiadis boasts plenty of valuable experience, but the same can be said for the international game. The 65-year old successfully led Cyprus for seven years (2004-2011) and is deservedly regarded as Cypriots’ best coach in history. However, the demands with Greece are a little different. There is pressure, demands and expectations. Unlike in Cyprus, Anastasiadis’ task is to lead the Greek Ethniki Omada to a major tournament - UEFA Euro 2020. Anything else will be regarded as a complete and utter failure.
Before we can criticize the decision to appoint Anastasiadis, we must question what EPO expects. Then, we can either be critical of Anastasiadis, or slate the federation for letting him down.
The key to Anastasiadis’ success
Skibbe’s reign is done and the Ethniki will now turn to a new coach, a Greek coach, the first Greek in 17 years. At this point in time, a Greek coach is what the Ethniki needs.
Someone that understands Greek football and can implement their law within the team. Someone that can transform Greece into a “team” again and make the players respect the Galanolefki jersey. Someone that will have a game plan, implement intelligent set-plays, recreate a stubborn defense, and impose an intelligent, dangerous counterattacking game. Kind of like a Gareth Southgate figure, who currently coaches England, and has changed that national team around. A coach with years of experience is not needed, but a hard worker with knowledge and a fighting attitude which delivers results.
Is Anastasiadis the guy for the job? Time is the best judge. If there is one thing certain, he will give 150% for the Ethniki. Coaching the national team has always been his dream and he will honour his position to the fullest. No one is questioning that. But, will it be enough? We all hope so.
The key to Anastasiadis’ success is how well he can connect with the leaders on the Greek team (Papastathopoulos, Manolas, Torosidis, Fortounis). Would Fernando Santos have led Portugal to the European championship if he did not have a good chemistry with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo? Of course not. Greece has a talented group of players, and if Anastasiadis can inspire the team’s big names to perform to the best of their abilities, a new, better Ethniki will be seen. One that can do great things. It will be challenging though, as players like Manolas and Sokratis are coached by world-class managers on a day-to-day basis. On the other hand, these players will now have a national boss that speaks their language and can inspire them in a special way.
Throughout his career, Anastasiadis has placed high value on Greek footballers and has always trusted their abilities. Fernando Santos did the same. It is one reason I think he can excel with the national team. He will give opportunities to the young kids, the next generation of Greek football, which has a bright future when looking at the U21 squad. Expect to see new blood like Galanopoulos, Chatzigiovannis, Tsimikas, Limnios, Koulouris, and Vlachodimos (if EPO get their priorities straight) in his call-ups for the EURO 2020 qualifiers. Do not expect some of these players in November’s call ups for the Nations League because they will be fighting with the Greece U21 squad against Austria in the qualifying playoffs for a spot in the EURO 2019 finals. Anastasiadis will need to find the perfect formula to incorporate these young players into the senior squad while providing the roster with a good balance of experienced “old timers.”
Maybe it’s time to reach out to the Euro 2004 generation
With Anastasiadis backed by an EPO that has no time to focus on the Ethniki, it might be wise to reach out to some of the Euro 2004 heroes to help out with some of the behind the scenes efforts with the team, similar to the incredible job Takis Fyssas did as a technical director under Rehhagel and Santos. Ideally, these players would take over the day-to-day operations of the federation, but that is a rather demanding ask right now.
Given just how talented this set of players is, it’s a crying shame to throw these guys to the side and let incompetent people, which do not care for the Ethniki, run the show. These players have the drive to make the national team successful once again and that cannot be taught. For example, a Kostas Katsouranis figure would be a perfect fit. Just look at the fantastic job he has done in Patra with Panachaiki. A team which languished in the third division is now the main favourite to earn promotion to the Super League. Katsouranis gradually constructed, enforced, and executed a long-term plan for the organisation. That is what Greece is in need of. The people with potential are there, but the question is, will they be given the opportunity? Fortunately, reports mention that Anastasiadis might turn to players like Georgios Karagounis and Angelos Charisteas to assist with the Ethniki. This news can only come as a relief for us who love the Ethniki.
How can these changes be implemented when the real issues of the Ethniki are masked by the Tziolides and the finger pointing at Skibbe? Again, they hold plenty of blame, but as they say in Greece, to psari mirize apo to kefali (in other words, the issues start from the top). Let’s look past the easy scapegoats and voice the real issues.
Either the EPO will make the Ethniki a priority, or Greece will miss out on a third straight major tournament, which will officially push the national team back into the petrina hronia (stone ages). A third consecutive missed competition will be detrimental to the Ethniki and qualifying for another tournament will look like a miracle as it did before Euro 2004. The finger pointing this time will be towards Anastasiadis, or a new Tziolis, while the actual people at fault continue to rule and govern Greek football, throwing away everything that was built between 2001 and 2014.