PAOK in the World Cup: From Tolba to Russia
Every four years, hundreds of millions football lovers get glued to their TV for the World Cup. Its trophy is every footballer’s Holy Grail. As the World Cup kick-off is nearing, paokfc.gr answers the question: What is the relation between PAOK and this competition?
Our story kicks off in 1990. After an excellent season at PAOK, Magdy Tolba is called to the World Cup squad of Egypt. Alongside him, the Hassan brothers, who sealed their transfer to the “Double-Headed Eagle” before the start of the “Italia 90”.
Tolba makes history, becoming the first active player of the “Double-Headed Eagle” to participate in the competition. He features in two matches in Italy, but Egypt get eliminated in the group stage after two draws against the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland and a 1-0 loss to England.
The second active player of PAOK to participate in the World Cup was Greek. In 1994, Greece made it to the finals for the first time ever. Their coach is Alketas Panagoulias and Αlexis Alexiou is a member of the squad. He featured in the last group match, against Nigeria. Greece lost all their matches (4-0 defeats by Argentina and Bulgaria, 2-0 down to Nigeria) and returned home with a 0-10 goal tally.
PAOK fans enjoyed the 1998 finals stress-free, as no player of the “Double-Headed Eagle” was present. However, after the completion of the tournament and the coronation of France as world champions, PAOK announced the signing of World-Cup participants Adolfo Valencia (Colombia) and Patrice Abanda Etong (Cameroon).
In 2002, in the tournament held in Japan and South Korea, PAOK were represented by Ifeanyi Udeze. His Nigeria were handed a tough draw, in the “group of death” consisting also of England, Argentina and Sweden. The “Double-Headed Eagle” defender watched from the bench as his side lost their first match to Argentina 1-0, but would be a starter in the upcoming two encounters. The Super Eagles played a goalless draw against England and then lost 2-1 to Sweden.
After the tournament, PAOK FC announced the signing of Marek Koźmiński, who featured in all three group matches of Poland in the World Cup.
There were no PAOK representatives in the 2006 edition of the tournament. Four years later though, in 2010, three “Double-Headed Eagle’s” players made the trip to South Africa. Κostas Chalkias and Stelios Malezas were rewarded for an excellent season and were included in the Greek list for the finals, issued by Otto Rehhagel. However they remained unused subs.
The third one, Pablo Contreras, became the first PAOK player ever to celebrate qualifying to the knock-out stages of the World Cup finals. His Chile finished second in their group, defeating Switzerland and the Honduras y 1-0 and losing 2-1 to eventual World Cup winners Spain in their last group stage match. In the round of 16, Chile were eliminated by Brazil. Contreras got to play against the Honduras and the Seleção.
Dimitris Salpingidis was also present in the South Africa competition and, after the World Cup, he returned to PAOK. In the encounter against Nigeria, he became the scorer of Greece’s first ever goal in World Cup finals. The blue-and-whites won 2-1 and also earned their first points in the competition. On the last matchday of the group stage, Argentina proved an insurmountable obstacle. Messi’s gang won 2-0 and our national side ended up paying for their defeat by South Korea.
Next stop, the 2014 World Cup held in Βrazil. The arrival of Ivan Savvidis at PAOK filled their roster with Greek players. The national team of Greece earned the World Cup ticket with a fine qualifying campaign and celebrated for the first time their participation in two consecutive final stages.
With Fernando Santos at the helm and Giorgos Tzavellas, Panagiotis Glykos, Κostas Katsouranis, Dimitris Salpingidis and Alexandros Tziolis on board, they travelled to South America. Κatsouranis and Salpingidis played in the opening day defeat by Colombia (3-0). The former started in the goalless draw against Japan, but was sent off in the 28th minute on a second bookable offence. Salpingidis came off the bench. On the last matchday of the group stage, Salpingidis features in the starting line-up, while Glykos is introduced in the game in the 24th minute, as Karnezis got injured. Greece defeated the Ivory Coast (2-1) and qualified to the last 16 stage.
They came up against Costa Rica. Salpingidis is in the initial line-up and gets substituted after 69 minutes of play. Katsouranis comes off the bench in the 78th minute. The Costaricans take the lead, but Papastathopoulos nets the equalizer at stoppage time and leads the encounter to extra time. The match remained undecided and the two sides headed for the penalty shoot-out. Keylor Navas denied Fanis Gekas from the spot and Greece got eliminated.
Meanwhile, Cameroon were dealt a tough draw, in a group against Brazil, Croatia and Μexico. They lost all three group matches, with Charles Itandje as starting goalkeeper. The “Double-Headed Eagle’s” keeper got to pay for his team’s weaknesses and ended up conceding 9 goals: one to Mexico and four each to Brazil and Croatia.
Ricardo Costa and Christian Noboa belong in a different category. They participated in the 2014 World Cup with Portugal and Ecuador respectively, but would join PAOK six months later, in January 2015.
Amr Warda and Aleksandar Prijović are about to make their dream come true and participate in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Needless to say that PAOK fans will be rooting for Egypt and Serbia.