Greek FA confirms Rehhagel resignation

DURBAN, South Africa (AP) — Greece coach Otto Rehhagel resigned following the team's elimination from the World Cup, officials at the Greek Football Association said Thursday.

The German coach, who turns 72 in August, was appointed in 2001 and guided the Greek team to the European Championship title three years later in one of the biggest upsets in soccer history.

Greek FA president Sofoklis Pilavios confirmed Rehhagel's resignation after the team returned to Greece on Thursday. Rehhagel did not return with the team.

"(Rehhagel) told me that it was for the best that we part ways," Pilavios said at Athens Airport, adding that outstanding contractual issues still had to be discussed.

No replacement has been chosen, although Portuguese coach Fernando Santos has been widely touted as the likely successor in the Greek media.

Asked if the Greek FA was already considering Rehhagel's replacement, Pilavios said "of course."

"It's always the aim of the national team to take part in the major tournament that take place every two years — the European Championship and the World Cup," Pilavios said.

Greece was eliminated Tuesday by a 2-0 loss to Argentina in the final Group B match, after losing to South Korea 2-0 and beating 10-man Nigeria 2-1.

Rehhagel is credited with transforming the Greek national team from a highly disorganized squad, hampered by infighting among senior officials, into European champions.

When he took over, Greece had only twice reached a major competition: the 1980 European Championship and the 1994 World Cup, not winning a game in either tournament and only scoring one goal.

As a player, Rehhagel was a defender. He later built his reputation as a goal-stopping coach in the Bundesliga, winning titles at Werder Bremen and Kaiserslautern.

Despite having few internationally known players, the Greeks thrived under Rehhagel, becoming a tough team to beat. In 2004, they won Euros, beating host Portugal in the final after victories over France and the Czech Republic.

Rehhagel, outspoken but shy around the media, stood by his defensive tactics, arguing that Greece had little world-class scoring talent.

Greece lost all three group matches at the 2008 European Championship and struggled to qualify for the World Cup.

In South Africa, Rehhagel resisted pressure to gamble with young players and stuck with trusted performers, even when they were out of form.

Back in Greece, success was always measured by the memory of 2004, which prompted wild street celebrations and lifted the country's spirits ahead of the Athens Olympics later that year.

Rehhagel was the oldest coach at the World Cup in South Africa and was at the Greek helm for 106 international matches.