Greece made it into the round of 16 by the skin of their teeth, beating Ivory Coast 2-1 in the final minute of the game, thanks to a Giorgis Samaras penalty. The Greek style of play has always been defensive but this World Cup they have proven that they can score goals too. After a 0-3 drubbing at the the hands of group leaders Colombia, they drew 0-0 with Japan and came out with a win over Ivory Coast. They will be facing Costa Rica in their round of 16 match where they would be looking to advance to the quarter finals for the very first time.
Population: 11.4 million
Area: 131,957 sq.km
Federation: The Hellenic Football Federation, founded in 1926, affiliated to FIFA in 1927.
Registered players: 359,230 (approx.)
Colours: All white with blue trim
World Cup appearances: 3 (1994, 2010, 2014)
World Cup record: First round (1994, 2010)
European Championship appearances: 3 (1980, 2004, 2008, 2012)
European Championship record: Winners (2004), first round (1980, 2008), quarter-finals (2012)
How they qualified: Came 2nd in European zone, Group G with 25pts W8 L1 D1, 12 goals for and 4 against, behind Bosnia on 25pts, but ahead of Slovakia 13, Lithuania 11, Latvia 8 and Liechtenstein 2. Then beat Romania in the play-offs 3-1, 1-1 (4-2 on agg).
Top clubs: Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, AEK Athens
Key players: Kostas Mitroglou, Giorgios Karagounis, Vasilis Torosidis, Orestis Karnezis.
Coach: Fernando Santos (Por)
The then German coach Otto Rehhagel had harnessed the wild indiscipline of the Greek character and forged a remarkably tight defence as well as pioneering the counter-attacking style that ended up stunning the football world. Rehhagel left after nine years when the team fell flat at South Africa 2010. He was replaced by another foreigner in Portugal's Fernando Santos, who, while constandly standing on the sideline with a hangdog look, immediately led Greece to the Euro 2012 finals, where it took Germany to stop them in the quarters. Of the class of 2004, only midfielders Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis are still going strong in an outfit where Santos has a very clear idea of his starting eleven. Mitroglou bagged 5 goals from 10 starts and PAOK's bearded striker Dimitrios Salpingidis netted 4 in 9.
Giorgios Samaras also plays up front alongside these two but worryingly failed to find the back of the net in ten qualifying matches. So Santos plays a tough 4-3-3 with midfielders Ioannis Maniatis, captain Katsouranis and Alexandros Tziolis doing all the hump work in midfield. Santos dedicated the qualification to the Greek people suggesting it was a glimmer of hope in tough economic times. Greece remains a minnow on the world stage and a reasonable target would be to qualify for the second round, although something similar was said about them in 2004.