Rehhagel will ignore suitors to remain Greece coach

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The Independent Online

For three weeks the Estadio Nacional, the atmospheric old ground in Lisbon's wooded western suburbs, has echoed to the shouts of Englishmen and the quiet promptings of a Swede. Yesterday the voices were Greek and German.

In a move which underlined the unexpected course of Euro 2004, Greece, the surprise team of the championship, have moved into England's painfully vacated training ground. The pitch on which Sven Goran Eriksson once oversaw operations is now Otto Rehhagel's home turf. The German supervised a gentle work-out yesterday and was pleased to see the squad's sole Premiership representative take part.

Stelios Giannakopoulos, of Bolton, missed the shock quarter-final defeat of France with a pulled muscle but hopes to play in Thursday's semi-final in Porto. "Tomorrow I will start playing with the team for the whole session and I will be ready for the game," he said afterwards.

Rehhagel has underlined the unity within the party by ruling himself out of the job of coaching his own national team. Although a poor relationship with Franz Beckenbauer stood against him, Rehhagel's success in marshalling Greece's limited resources had made him a contender to replace Rudi Völler.

"I don't break contracts," said Rehhagel, who negotiated a new contract before the tournament after rejecting overtures from Bayer Leverkusen and other Bundesliga clubs. "I'm staying with the Greeks." Rehhagel, 65, won most of the honours in his career steering Werder Bremen and Kaiserslauten to Bundesliga titles, Bremen and Fortuna Dusseldorf to German Cups and Bremen to the European Cup-Winners' Cup. He took over Greece in 2001 and was christened 'King Otto' just for guiding them to this tournament.

They go into the semi-final with just three defeats in their last 22 matches, to Russia in the group stage and the Netherlands and Poland in friendlies.

"The feeling is getting better every day," said Giannakopoulos. "Every game is tough but at this stage our dream has come true. So now we are dreaming of the final and lifting the cup. Anything can happen now.

"Rehhagel has made us into a very solid team. He has brought a German mentality to our football and that has been very important. He has made us happy and now we have made every last Greek person all over the world happy because of what we achieved."

Instilling a "German mentality" included dealing with a couple of specifically Greek traits. To put an end to years of interfering by officials the blazers were banned from the dressing room - the President even had to ask permission to come in and congratulate the team - and players were persuaded to desist from drinking into the early hours.

Drinking espresso macchiatos, that is. Suddenly it is not so hard to understand why Theo Zagorakis, the captain who has been for Greece in this tournament everything David Beckham was not for England, was not a success at Leicester City.

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