SALZBURG (Reuters) - Coach Otto Rehhagel defended Greece’s cautious approach after their 2-0 Euro 2008 defeat by Sweden on Tuesday.
The champions fielded five defenders in a bid to keep Swedish strike pair Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic quiet.
“If we had not played the way we played it would have been 5-0 against us in the first half,” Rehhagel told reporters.
Greece next meet Russia here on Saturday before completing their Group D campaign against Spain in Salzburg four days later and the German coach said defence would again be the cornerstone of his strategy.
”We do want to score goals as well but the truth is we don’t score many,“ said Rehhagel, who led Greece to their surprise triumph in Portugal four years ago. ”So we must secure the back first and then see whether we can score a goal on the break.
”You must understand we don’t have the offensive potential of the German team (for example).
“Some of my players failed to reach their full potential today. They tried but against such a strong and physical team it was just not enough.”
Ibrahimovic produced a glorious long-range strike in the 67th minute to record his first international goal for more than two and a half years before Petter Hansson doubled the lead five minutes later following a goalmouth scramble.
“It was a well-deserved victory for Sweden,” said Rehhagel.
The Greeks were booed by Swedish fans midway through the first half when Rehhagel’s defenders passed the ball around in their own half in patient fashion.
“I did not like how they played with the possession of the ball,” the coach said.
“The order to the defenders was to get far more involved.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez