Greece unmoved by threat of Fifa discipline

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The Independent Football

Greek Football's post-European Championships hangover intensified this week when the national Football Association was told by Fifa to "resolve their internal problems" or face the consequences.

The ultimatum followed a poor start to the World Cup qualifying campaign which resumes with a difficult tie in Kiev today. The Greek team are sixth in Group Two having lost their opening game in Albania then being held at home by Turkey.

"Everything is OK," said a spokesman for the Greek FA yesterday. "It is our problem and we will provide a solution." The dispute follows a delay in elections to the Greek FA.

Greece, Ethiopia and Nigeria were told to settle internal difficulties by Fifa who underlined their intent by suspending Niger after their government had interfered in the running of the Niger FA.

In an unrelated, but unfortunate co-incidence, Greece are likely to select for today's game a player found guilty of throwing his gloves at a referee.

Antonis Nikopolidis, the George Clooney-lookalike who kept goal in Euro 2004, committed the offence at the end of Olympiakos's 2-1 defeat by Xanthi on Sunday. The hearing was held on Thursday, with Nikopolidis already travelling to Ukraine with the national team. He was suspended for two domestic games and fined around £7,000.

Nikopolidis's club captain Grigoris Georgatos incurred a similar penalty after telling a linesman during the match that he would kill him.

King Otto, as Greece coach Otto Rehhagel became known, has also had injury problems ahead of the Ukraine tie.

Rehaggel brought in the PAOK Salonica forward Dimitris Salpingidis as cover for Werder Bremen's Angelos Haristeas, the man who scored the competition-winning goal in Lisbon, who has a back strain.

Greece are also without Panathinaikos striker Dimitris Papadopoulos who has a thigh strain.

Elsewhere Macedonia are hoping to cause another "sensation" by holding the Netherlands to at least a draw in their Group One qualifier.

"This will be a very difficult match for us," said their coach Dragan Kanatlarovski, "but we have nothing to lose and why not cause a sensation by not losing." He recalled that Macedonia had already enjoyed an amazing result when they drew 2-2 with England in a Euro 2004 qualifier in September 2002 at St Mary's Stadium.

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