VOULIAGMENI, Greece (AP) — Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou kept his place in the country's World Cup squad on Monday despite three forwards being dropped from the preliminary lineup.
Greece coach Fernando Santos announced the final 23-man squad and said he believes the 26-year-old Mitroglou will be ready for Brazil despite his lack of game time since moving to England at the start of the year to join now-relegated Premier League side Fulham.
"I wasn't 100 percent about some of the call-ups until a few weeks ago. Mitroglou was one of those cases," Santos said. "We watched the last 30 minutes of his game, and we paid a lot of attention — and we judged him to be ready ... we're looking at playing ability and physical condition: People who are safe choices."
Mitroglou joined teammates later Monday at the national team's opening training session at seaside facility near Athens.
At the World Cup, Greece will face Colombia, Japan and Ivory Coast in Group C.
Despite Greece's fast opponents, the Portuguese coach opted for more experienced players, including 2004 European Championship winners Costas Katsouranis and captain Giorgos Karagounis.
Three strikers were dropped from preliminary lineup: Dimitris Papadopoulos of Atromitos, Stefanos Athanasiadis of PAOK and Nikolaos Karelis of Panathinaikos. Defenders Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Dimitris Siovas also failed to make the squad due to persistent injury troubles.
"I was sorry not to include players that helped us in qualification, like (midfielder) Sotiris Ninis and Siovas," Santos said. "But the national team is above players and above the coach. We must use the safest choices."
Santos said he had identified "strengths and weaknesses" in all three group opponents, but did not elaborate.
Greece will play friendlies against Portugal, Nigeria and Bolivia before traveling to Brazil.
Goalkeepers: Orestis Karnezis (Granada), Panagiotis Glykos (PAOK), Stefanos Kapino (Panathinaikos)
Defenders: Vassilis Torosidis (Roma), Loukas Vyntra (Levante), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund), Costas Manolas (Olympiakos), Vangelis Moras (Hellas Verona), Jose Holebas (Olympiakos), Giorgos Tzavellas (PAOK), Yiannis Maniatis (Olympiakos)
Midfielders: Alexandros Tziolis (Kayserispor), Costas Katsouranis (PAOK), Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham), Andreas Samaris (Olympiakos), Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Torino), Panagiotis Kone (Bologna), Yiannis Fetfatzidis (Genoa), Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (Bologna)
Forwards: Georgios Samaras (Celtic), Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham), Fanis Gekas (Konyaspor), Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK)
Follow Derek Gatopoulos at http://twitter.com/dgatopoulos