ATHENS (AFP) - Five years and four months after their surprise Euro 2004 crowning, Greece are still searching for that magic touch which will lead them back to glory days.
A disastrous showing in the 2005 Confederation Cup, failure to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, a disappointing performance in Euro 2008 and failure to qualify outright in what was termed an easy group for the 2010 World Cup are all the team has to show in their post-Euro 2004 history.
But 71-year-old German coach Otto Rehhagel, the mastermind behind the Euro 2004 triumph, and a handful of players left over from that team have a chance to bring back lost respect if they get by Ukraine in the play-offs.
If they accomplish that, it will only be the second time that Greece has made it to the World Cup having done so for the first time in 1994 when they lost all their matches in the United States and even failed to score.
Ironically, Ukraine left Greece out in the cold for the previous World Cup as they beat the Greeks 1-0 on the road to the 2006 finals.
Greece host the first leg at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday but they are missing four injured starters.
Despite the long injury list, Rehhagel believes that both teams have the same chances of qualifying.
"A lot will rest on individual match-ups. Which team wins most of these will take a significant step towards winning the matches," Rehhagel said.
Missing both matches for the Greeks will be injured striker Giannis Amanatidis and defender Christos Patsatzoglou.
Expected to sit out only the first match but will be ready for the return in Ukraine next Wednesday will be defenders Giorgos Seitaridis and Vasilis Torosidis.
Ukraine, who were quarter-finalists in 2006, have a miserable record in play-offs, losing at this stage in qualifying for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups as well as the 2000 European championships.
However, the brightest star of Ukrainian football Andrey Shevchenko said he believed that his side were capable of breaking the dismal tradition.
"I believe we have a slight advantage starting the showdown with Greece away in Athens," Shevchenko told AFP. "We should play in a very well-disciplined style there even if the hosts are ahead.
"The Greeks are skilled players. They are well-disciplined and are very dangerous on the counter-attacks.
"But we have some positive experiences from playing Greece. We overcame them in the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign. We won the group and a ticket to Germany."
Ukraine coach Alexei Mikhailichenko also said he was confident that his team could win the two-leg clash if his players performed at their top level.
"We are preparing for a tough battle," Mikhailichenko said.
"An away draw and a home win would be an ideal outcome for us. There are plenty of factors that could affect the result but I've told my men to play for a win in both matches.
"I'm counting on experienced fighters - Shevchenko, (Anatoly) Tymoshchuk, (Artem) Milevsky and (Oleg) Gusev."
Missing from the squad is Liverpool forward Andrei Voronin who asked not to be included.
|Coach: O. Rehhagel|
|Gabbiadini scored three times, says frustrated Puel|
|Real Madrid equal longest scoring streak in Spanish history|
|Roma are fed up - Spalletti hits back amid penalty controversy|
|Lyon´s Memphis Depay revels in two-goal performance|
|Marseille 1 Paris Saint-Germain 5: Record crowd sees OM thrashed|
|Villarreal 2 Real Madrid 3: Bale, Ronaldo and Morata complete stunning turnaround|
|Inter 1 Roma 3: Nainggolan at the double in dominant display|
|Ronaldo spot on as he takes LaLiga penalty record|
|Mourinho: Fans will camp at Ibrahimovic´s house to make sure he stays!|
|Late Barca defeat leaves Simeone with sense of deja vu|
|It is not easy to keep winning – Mourinho emotional after Manchester United success|
|Mourinho: Outstanding Ibrahimovic won us the cup|
|Pogba: That´s why Ibrahimovic came here|
|Ibrahimovic hails his predictive powers after sealing EFL Cup triumph|
|He´s incredible - Carrick hails Ibrahimovic impact after EFL Cup win|
|Mourinho equals Clough and Ferguson record with EFL Cup triumph|
|Manchester United 3 Southampton 2: Ibrahimovic settles thrilling final|
|Lewandowski focused on writing his own Bayern history after Gerd Muller comparisons|
|Muller: Goals aren´t everything for me|
|Bacca goal should not have stood – Montella|
|Kane one of the top strikers in the world - hails Pochettino|
|Messi celebrates 400th win with Barcelona|
|Atletico Madrid 1 Barcelona 2: Messi leaves it late again to stun hosts|
|Leicester should have to play without a manager, blasts Mihajlovic|
|What a first half! - Record-breaking Kane lauds Tottenham display|
|Fabregas ´humbled and proud´ after 300th Premier League game|
|Sassuolo 0 AC Milan 1: Controversial Bacca penalty proves decisive|
|Zarate confirms ACL injury|
|Bayern Munich deny Eberl approach|
|Rooney on bench for EFL Cup final|
|Tottenham 4 Stoke City 0: Kane hat-trick sends Pochettino´s side second|
|Norwich City 1 Ipswich Town 1: Knudsen and Bialkowski frustrate Neil´s men|
|´No regrets´ for Ben Yedder after rejecting PSG move|
|Mignolet: Liverpool harder to stop now than with Suarez|
|O´Neill rules out taking Leicester job and questions players´ attitude|
|´Uncle´ Toure still uncertain on Manchester City future|
|Mourinho already knows next Manchester United transfer targets|
|Newcastle Jets 1 Central Coast Mariners 1: Honours even in F3 Derby|
|Half a century of Kazuyoshi Miura: Japanese legend plays on 50th birthday|
|´Criminal´ if Shaw doesn´t succeed at United - Neville|
|Kaka scores first goal in Orlando City´s new stadium|
|Conte lauds Chelsea´s milestone man Fabregas|
|Pochettino questions readiness in Tottenham´s trophy quest|
|Mata wants to extend Manchester United contract|
|Mourinho is a winner - Cantona backs United for success|
|Allegri grateful Juve control Serie A title destiny|
|Goalless Muller was the best player, says Ancelotti after thrashing|
|Phil Neville backs Rashford to match Griezmann|
|Juventus 2 Empoli 0: Champions cruise to 10-point gap at summit|
|Howe refusing to panic as Bournemouth´s struggles continue|
|Zarate was making the difference before injury - Mazzarri|
|I owe him my eternal gratitude - Vardy´s emotional Ranieri tribute|
|Cantona: Ibrahimovic is like me|
|Watford 1 West Ham 1: Ayew halts injury-hit hosts|
|Napoli 0 Atalanta 2: Caldara double stuns Sarri´s men|
|Ancelotti: It was a perfect day|
|Championship review: Newcastle drop points, Leeds clip Owls´ wings|
|Allardyce hails Van Aanholt and Sakho|
|Koeman lays into ´lucky´ Everton´s second-half display|
|Conte: We still need 29 points for Premier League title|
|We need an Aubameyang who does not think too much - Tuchel|
|Guingamp 1 Monaco 2: Glik, Fabinho on target|
|Marco Silva blames lack of focus as Hull remain in drop zone|
|Lukaku becomes Everton´s joint leading Premier League scorer|
|Real Betis 1 Sevilla 2: Sampaoli´s men heap pressure on Real Madrid|
|RB Leipzig 3 Cologne 1: Hosts capitalise on errors to stay hot on Bayern´s heels|
|Hull City 1 Burnley 1: Keane on target as 10-man Clarets end dire away run|
|Chelsea 3 Swansea City 1: Fabianski´s error helps Premier League leaders move 11 points clear|
|Neuer reaches 100 Bundesliga clean sheets for Bayern in record-breaking fashion|
|Everton 2 Sunderland 0: Unhappy Goodison return for Moyes as Lukaku wraps it up|
|West Brom 2 Bournemouth 1: McAuley winner piles pressure on Howe|
|Crystal Palace 1 Middlesbrough 0: Van Aanholt proves difference in nervy basement battle|
|Luis Enrique dismisses claims of dressing room discontent at Barcelona|
|Bayern Munich 8 Hamburg 0: Lewandowski hits hat-trick in special day for Ancelotti|
|Freiburg 0 Borussia Dortmund 3: Aubameyang back in the goals with a brace|
|#Piegate bites back as Sutton are forced to use outfield player in goal|
|Schmeichel denies players met with Leicester board to get Ranieri sacked|
|Spalletti would not swap Dzeko for Icardi|
|Emery understands Marseille rivalry and hopes PSG can repeat Barca win|
|Ibrahimovic better than ever and could play on until he turns 40 - Mourinho|
|Simeone: Barcelona still the best team in the world|
|A-League Review: Victory stay in Sydney hunt, Roar slip up at home|
|Zidane hopes potential France return will boost Benzema|
|I have not talked to anyone at Leicester - Mancini on replacing Ranieri|
|LaLiga teams raise their game against Real Madrid, claims Zidane|
|Arrivederci, Claudio! Ranieri says his final Leicester goodbyes|
|Soldado expects Real Madrid to come out fighting after Valencia loss|
|Montella hoping to remain AC Milan coach despite impending takeover|
|Valencia hopes EFL Cup triumph can inspire late title charge|
|Pele´s son vows to clear his name after being jailed for money laundering|
|Wijnaldum highlights Kante loss as crucial to Leicester´s downfall|
|Lyon rejected chance to sign Sakho, says Aulas|
|Koeman hopes Southampton lose EFL Cup final to boost Everton´s European hopes|
|Mata insists Manchester United will not take EFL Cup final for granted|
|Simeone´s Atletico starting to decline, Abbiati claims|
|Chelsea´s Fabregas ´100 per cent´ staying at Stamford Bridge|
|´Being Joey´ - Dyche talks up Barton TV show|
|Messi the best of all time, says Jovetic|
|You can define an era - Buffon wishes Donnarumma happy birthday|
|Clement: Llorente wants to star against Chelsea|
|Koeman not interested in Everton renewal amid Barca links|
|Rivals scared of Ibrahimovic, says United team-mate Herrera|
|Schmeichel pays tribute to Ranieri|
|Yaya Toure wants to play with Neymar and Coutinho|
|Mourinho: It´s more difficult to win now|
|I didn´t sleep for six days – Conte motivated by last-gasp title loss|
|It all depends on success - Klopp knows trophies are a must|