From Worst To First: How the Former ‘Greece’ Skipper Shocked the Soccer World


Ten months ago, Leicester City of the English Premiere League was a 5,000-1 long shot to win the Championship. Yes, five thousand, with three zeroes. Fast forward to May 2, 2016, and they are now the new champions of England. No, seriously.

Non-sports fans might not understand how astronomical those odds were. To put it into perspective, the Cleveland Browns are 200-1 odds to win the next Super Bowl – and any American football fan knows that’s not happening. It’s like {Insert Your Horio’s Aging, Casual Soccer Team Made Up of Farmers Without Matching Jerseys Here} winning the Greek Super League. Leicester City’s accomplishment has to be seen as the greatest triumph in all of soccer, if not in all of sports.

So why is this even relevant on a web site that caters to Greek news?

Let’s rewind to August 2014. Greece is coming of what many were calling a successful World Cup campaign, having made it to the round of 16 only to fall to Costa Rica on penalty kicks (thanks again, Gekas). The coach that led Greece through the World Cup resigned and Italian international Claudio Ranieri was brought on as the new skipper. Expectations for the Greeks were now high, and the thought of a new coach that likes to use younger players was very exciting for Greek soccer fans.

Now rewind a few more years to 2012. After 20+ seasons coaching in the high profile leagues of Italy, England and Spain, Claudio Ranieri took the reigns of Monaco FC of France, a club that was buried in the French Ligue 2 (2nd division). Ranieri not only led Monaco to a Ligue 2 championship in his first year at the helm, but also to a 2nd place finish in Ligue 1 the following year when they were promoted to division 1.

Forward to 2014 again; in come the Greeks and offer Ranieri something he’s never had a before – an opportunity to coach at the International level. With the hype surrounding the Greek National Team post-World Cup, it seemed like a no-brainer. Ranieri signed a 2-year contract and his first task was to lead the Greek nationals through the Qualifiers for Euro Cup 2016, in what most people believed was an easy group to make it out of. But the honeymoon ended abruptly when the new skipper was sacked after only 4 matches. Ranieri led the team to a record of 0 wins, 1 draw and 3 losses through his first four games. The 4th match, a loss to Faroe Islands (do you even know where the Faroe Island are?), is not only the worst loss in the history of the national team, but it can also be seen as one of the biggest upsets in the history of international soccer competition, too.


The following year, Ranieri signs a 3-year contract to manage Leicester City of the English Premiere League, the team who at the beginning of the season was a 5,000-1 long shot to win the championship. Right away, Leicester City began attracting media attention with their stellar play and wild motivational tactics from their skipper, all while doing so in one of the toughest and most notable leagues in the world. Fast forward to May 2, 2016 and Leicester City are now at the top of the English Premiere League table, having surpassed legendary clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United along the way. Truly a Cinderella story for the ages.

EPL Table

So what happened during his short tenure with Greece? Is the Greek National Team that bad? The easy answer would be to say ‘yes’, but I don’t think that’s the case. Are they great? No – but I think they certainly have more talent than Leicester City and should have demolished the Faroe Islands in the Euro Cup Qualifiers. Frankly, I think the team got arrogant after the World Cup. With a lot of the veterans of the World Cup campaign either retiring or not getting called up again, the Greek National Team lost a lot of leadership, and I would argue they lost their way. Ranieri has done nothing but work wonders in the soccer world, and has done so with underdogs, but he wasn’t even able to get a win in a Qualifying match with the Greeks. I hope this is a wake-up call for our National Team, because no single player is bigger that the team or the game – and until they begin to understand that, they’ll sadly be stuck in soccer mediocrity.

Qualifiers for World Cup 2018 begin this September. Greece is in the same group as Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia and Cyprus. The winner of the group automatically advances while the second place teams go to a another round against one another.



Leave A Reply