Skibbe searching for new Ethniki image
Following the FIFA World Cup disappointment against Croatia, Greek national team head coach Michael Skibbe had time to think about preparations for Euro 2020 qualifying and the UEFA Nations League. When announcing his roster to play Switzerland and Egypt in friendly matches, the German displayed that he’s willing to give new faces a chance.
Greece are back in action as they face Switzerland in an international friendly on Friday, March 23rd. Watch it LIVE from AGONAsport.com!
After dropping a large 1:4 aggregate defeat to Croatia in the World Cup playoffs last November, the vast majority of Ethniki Omada fans lamented Skibbe’s irritating habit of picking the same old players instead of introducing fresh blood. Despite that loss against the Croatians, Skibbe put pen to paper on a new deal with the Hellenic Football Federation, but there is hope that he will gradually revitalise an ageing squad which is crying out for added flair.
A SPLASH OF YOUTH
Immediately after the squad to take on Switzerland and Egypt was announced, everyone’s eyes were drawn to the inclusion of PAOK prospects Dimitris Limnios and Efthymios Koulouris. Both have impressed with PAOK during the season, with club boss Razvan Lucescu trusting the two with more minutes on the pitch over the course of the campaign. Teenager Limnios has participated in 15 Super League matches without scoring any goals, but 22-year old Koulouris has found the net on two occasions in 12 games.
Other promising young players such as AEK Athens midfielder Konstantinos Galanopoulos, tricky Panionios playmaker Lazaros Lamprou and Oympiacos left-back Leonardo Koutris are also on Skibbe’s radar, but their wait for a call-up to the senior Ethniki side continues. It’s worth noting that Galanopoulos and Lamprou are key figures for the the country’s under 21 team (along with Koulouris and Limnios).
One major criticism of Greece is the over-reliance on star striker Kostas Mitroglou. Thankfully, to Skibbe’s relief, Genk forward Nikolaos Karelis has returned from a serious injury and is firing on all cylinders in the Jupiler League. Having received a deserved call-up, the matches against the Swiss and Egyptians are perfect opportunities for Karelis to prove that the Greeks do have another option asides from Mitroglou.
Moving backwards, we see that the defensive line boasts more depth. AEK right-back Michalis Bakakis, who is enjoying a superb campaign in Athens, is the stand-out candidate to eventually replace veteran Vassilis Torosidis on the right side of defence. Charalambos Lykogiannis, a left sided defender, plays regularly with Cagliari in Italy’s Serie A and this is the ideal time for Skibbe to see how the 24-year old can perform at the highest level.
Andreas Gianniotis, the goalkeeper who set a number of records with Atromitos Athens at the start of the season, hopes to be given a chance to display his talent in March’s friendlies. AEK stopper Vasilis Barkas has been called up to the senior team before, but is yet to make an appearance and will feel that his solid performances with the Enosis merit an opportunity. PAOK’s Alexandros Paschalakis is one of the Super League pleasant surprises this season, but Skibbe left him on the sidelines. Nevertheless, if he continues keeping clean sheets in Thessaloniki, Paschalakis will eventually give Skibbe no other option than to select him.
OTHERS WAITING IN THE WINGS
Looking forward to the future, more are patiently waiting to show Skibbe their capabilities on the international stage. AEK’s experienced midfielder Panagiotis Kone hasn’t played for the Ethniki recently, but he’s reportedly a player who Skibbe is keeping tabs on. Manolis Siopis, Dimitris Kolovos and Theodoros Vasilakakis are also close to forcing their way into Skibbe’s plans.
Greece are set to host Switzerland at the Olympic Stadium in Athens on March 23, before travelling to Zurich for a fixture against the Egyptians four days later.