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11/07/2004

Greek star gives Wales thumbs up

Nikos Dabizas insists Wales will need to box clever if they are to emulate Greece's Euro 2004 triumph.

The Leicester defender is still coming down from the clouds after playing his part in his nation's momentous victory in Portugal.

But after helping his country upset the balance of power in European football, Dabizas believes Wales should follow their lead.

The 30-year-old knows all about Sparky's men, having played alongside Wales stars Gary Speed and Craig Bellamy while at Newcastle, and having come up against Welsh wing wizard Ryan Giggs.

He has also lined up in defence alongside former Leicester full-back Ben Thatcher. With those resources he believes Wales have the talented core to make their mark in the upcoming World Cup campaign.

Sparky will lead his side into battle against overwhelming favourites England before testing ties against Austria, Poland, Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan.

But Dabizas said: "Having played alongside Craig Bellamy and Gary Speed I can say Wales have a chance.

"They are first-class both on and off the pitch and always give everything in games.

"With those kind of characters Wales can be confident. They have got some very good talent in the squad, are certainly committed and don't lack for effort just like Greece.

"With a bit of luck as well they can also go on to upset a lot of teams.

"If the belief is there and a team chooses the right tactics and plays clever you can always achieve something unexpected."

Mark Hughes was already playing with a similar game plan to that of Greece before it suddenly became fashionable in the past few weeks.

And Dabizas is a firm believer that sides should play to their strengths rather than react to the critics.

"You cannot just leave yourselves exposed all for the sake of playing nice football," he said.

"Whatever anyone says you have to play for the result and build on what you have in your own side while trying to take advantage of the opposition's weaknesses.

"People may call it ugly but there is only one winner and that is the side winning at the end of the game - no matter how they got into the lead. England are a big name but if Wales play clever with the right tactics anything can happen."

Dabizas is still on extended leave in his homeland following Greece's shock victory and admits he still does not know whether he will return to relegated Leicester.

But although he failed to force his way into the starting line-up during Euro 2004 the 68-capped defender insists his teammates have helped to change the face of the sport in Greece forever.

"This has been the most important moment of my life," said Dabizas.

"Things have calmed down a bit now but our country will never forget this moment.

"We have done something remarkable."

"It wasn't the best tournament for me because I picked up an injury.

"But it was such a big achievement that I would have been a very small person to have put my personal interests above the team.

"I am just happy to have played my part in such a momentous occasion."


http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/

 

232 Appearances in England (175 for Newcastle United, 18 for Leicester in the Premier League and 39 for Leicester in the Championship). Total League-Cup-Europe appearances 550. National Team appearances 70. Goals total 40.