NATAL, Brazil – Despite their country's dismal scoring record at World Cup finals, Greece players insist the goals will come in Brazil — starting on Thursday against Japan.
Now playing in its third World Cup, Greece has only scored two goals to date — both in the 2010 tournament in South Africa. That record clearly needs to improve if the team is to advance beyond the group stage for the first time.
The game at Natal's Arena das Dunas is a must-win for both teams after they lost their opening matches in Group C. Greece was beaten 3-0 by Colombia after its supposedly rock-solid defense caved in, while Japan was edged 2-1 by Ivory Coast.
Given the stakes, Greece defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos had no doubts on Wednesday, promising "tomorrow, we will have goals."
His teammates were similarly convinced that Greece would overcome its problems in finding the back of the net.
"It's not a psychological hurdle, certainly not," said defender Vasileios Torosidis, who will take any kind of goal to secure victory.
"Tomorrow, I hope to win with an own goal or a goal, the important thing is to win," he said. "We are not stressed. The World Cup is a celebration."
He's one of only two Greece players who have celebrated a World Cup goal, notching the winner in Greece's 2-1 victory over Nigeria in 2010. Dimitris Salpingidis also scored in that game.
Greece also scored just two goals in four warm-up matches for the World Cup in Brazil as coach Fernando Santos searched for answers up front.
However, there were several good chances to score against Colombia. Georgios Samaras hit the crossbar. Panagiotis Kone sent a shot just wide in the first half and later was denied by an outstanding reaction save by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina.
"Scoring has been difficult indeed," midfielder Lazaros Christodoulopoulos acknowledged. "Every year is different, every match is different. We have to score tomorrow to keep ourselves alive."