In surprising fashion, the main target of criticism by the Greek press after its national team drew 1-1 with Israel in Ramat Gan was head coach Otto Rehhagel. Less surprisingly, Ben Sahar was chosen the man of the match by the Greek press, followed by Gal Alberman and Yossi Benayoun.
The Greek newspaper SportDay stressed the team's ticket to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup lies in its own hands from this point on, but lashed out at Rehhagel for doing little to help the team with a less than successful lineup and ineffective substitutions.
Other papers chimed in that Greece had missed a golden opportunity to win Saturday night's match in Ramat Gan, though the Greek paper Goal News declared the team was able to leave Israel with its head held high and can still advance with a win Wednesday in Crete.
Rehhagel, however, was faulted for allowing Dror Kashtan, Israel's head coach, dictate the tempo of the match during the second half. "The lights went out in extra time," according to the Goal News analysis. "We could have also won 3-1."
Protathlitis, the sports daily affiliated with Oympiacos, also bemoaned the win that could have been.
In his own defense, Rehhagel commented, "We were in first place, we fought well, and we stayed in first place, so I'm satisfied." It's hard to argue with that. "After we went ahead, I asked my players not to get too excited," the German coach added. "Rather, they should keep the match in order, but it didn't really succeed. Now, we have to win in Crete."
Fanis Gekas, the Greek striker who scored his team's lone goal, declared, "We were close to victory, we blew two good chances, but to tell the truth we also could have lost. We expected a different Israel, a more aggressive one."
Goal News did credit Sahar, 19, with sowing seeds of fear among the Greek defense every time he came down the field. The media was less impressed with Benayoun. Although it remarked on his dedication to the team, it also observed a psychological problem with someone who plays in such a fateful game after being injured.
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