This is a post in an ongoing series, where we examine and poke fun at some of the most ghastly teams ever to take the field.
Greece is a country with a great sporting legacy, creating the Olympics forever ago. However, soccer is not and was not one of their strengths, particularly in 1994.
Greece often fell flat on their faces when it came to the World Cup, but in 1994 they raised eyebrows by beating both Hungary and Luxembourg on their way to qualifying for the world’s biggest sporting event.
Manager Alketas Panagoulias (try to find that in a word search) made a frightful decision that doomed the Greeks. Instead of sending a young, fresh squad of bright prospects to the US, he shipped off a cast of veteran players who had AARP cards in their back pockets. His reasoning was this: He wanted to reward the longtime players for their loyalty and give them the legendary experience of playing on the world’s biggest soccer stage.
Good job, Alcatraz Paninis. You ruined Greece’s World Cup Chances.
Greece was instantly slammed with a difficult group, boasting perennial contenders Argentina along with Bulgaria and Nigeria. Greece wasn’t expected to advance through the group stage, and these predictions were amplified once they started playing games.
Greece’s first game was against Argentina, who had won the World Cup in 1986 and played in the Final in 1990. They still had Diego Maradonna on a pedestal, and also had promising young players in Claudio Carniggia and Gabriel Batistuta.
Almost immediately, Argentina walked down the field and scored. Batistuta supplied the first goal, and Greece was forced to play catch up for the entire match, dooming their gimpy squad. Batistuta went on to score twice more, giving him the hat-trick, while Maradonna blasted one in at the hour mark. For those of you who are mathematically challenged, the Greeks fell to Argentina 4-0 in an embarrassing defeat.
Up next for Greece were Bulgaria, who were also humiliated in their opening game, a 3-0 pasting at the hands of Nigeria. Bulgaria wanted a target to unleash their rage at, and they had it in a confused Greek squad. In the fifth minute, Bulgaria was awarded a penalty off a handball following a corner, and Bulgaria easily put it in to go ahead 1-0. Following more penalties and miscues, Bulgaria happily capitalized on the mistakes and went on to crush Greece 4-0. Greece looked thoroughly unprepared and out-coached.
Two games. 0 goals.
Nigeria was up next, needing a win to advance to the round of 16. Greece played their best game of the tournament, but it still wasn’t nearly enough. The Super Eagles went up 1-0 following a Fidini George goal, and Daniel Amokachi hit the net in the 90th minute, securing another loss for the hapless Greeks.
Greece trudged back home, humiliated and beaten. They were outscored 10-0 in three games against teams with vastly superior talent. It seemed like Greece didn’t find their way out of the storm until 2004, when they shocked the continent, winning the European championships despite being 150:1 longshots to win. Greece also qualified for the 2010 World Cup, where they were promptly eliminated. In 2014, Greece advanced further, but not deep enough. At least they were better than the crappy old 1994 team, though.