Football: Greeks urged to eliminate gifts

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The Independent Online
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THE Greek coach, Alketas Panagoulias, told his players yesterday to stop congratulating themselves on qualifying for the World Cup, and to concentrate on beating their fellow strugglers Bulgaria in tomorrow's Group D game in Chicago.

Panagoulias said he will make up to four changes from the team beaten 4-0 by Argentina. The goalkeeper, Antonis Minou, will be dropped. 'We keep giving gifts to other teams,' the coach said. 'I hope we stop this against Bulgaria. We have to go back to the original 'Beware of Greeks bearing gifts'.

'Starting today, the morale is going to change. As a coach I've been intervening and we've had a lot of discussion,' Panagoulias added. 'I'm trying to raise the psychology of the team. We might yet surprise everyone. I have the weakest team up to today but we could reach the last 16 if we beat Bulgaria - so that's what I'm going to tell them.'

Bulgaria were beaten 3-0 by Nigeria in their opening game and anything less than victory for either side tomorrow will almost certainly mean the end of their hopes. The Bulgarian coach, Dimitar Penev, has told his two forwards, Hristo Stoichkov and Emil Kostadinov, that he wants to see more running from them. 'We did not get strong play from Stoichkov and Kostadinov against Nigeria,' he said.

In Group A, Romania will be without Ioan Vladoiu, who has received a three-match ban after being sent off in the 4-1 defeat by Switzerland, against the United States in Pasadena. He will not play again unless Romania reach the semi-finals. Claudio Reyna, the 20-year- old American midfielder, has been ruled out of the match with a hamstring injury. Colombia have their last chance to open their points account against the Swiss in Palo Alto.

Les Mottram, the Scottish referee, will take charge of the Group D fixture between Greece and Nigeria at the Foxboro Stadium on Thursday.