Athens - Greece coach, Fernando Santos said on Friday it was
with a "heavy heart" that he had made his decision to step down after
the World Cup finals later this year.
"It was a very difficult decision emotionally,"
Santos, who has been in the job since taking over from Otto Rehhagel in 2010, told
reporters a day after the Greek FA announced the Portuguese would not be
renewing his contract.
"Professionally I had made the decision some time ago
but it was difficult for my heart to accept”.
"This is because during my time in charge I have
created strong bonds with many people, especially the president and the players
whom I like very much and have close relationships with."
Greece will face Colombia, Ivory Coast and Japan in Group C
in the finals and they begin their countdown to the World Cup with a friendly
against fellow qualifiers South Korea next week.
Santos built on Rehhagel's strong foundations, blooding many
young players and has so far recorded 24 wins, 13 draws and only four defeats
while in charge.
The former AEK Athens, Panathinaikos and PAOK Salonika coach
guided Greece to Euro 2012 with an unbeaten run of 16 matches before their
eventual quarter-final exit.
Santos said that the early announcement of his decision
before the World Cup will not affect his team's performance in Brazil.
"I think that it can only have a positive impact on my
players as I know them very well," Santos said.
"They know that we will not continue together after the
World Cup and they will try to give their best to end my tenure on a positive
"I have a target which is for the team to make it past
the group stage and I will do everything possible to achieve this goal."
Santos opted to leave out usual first and second choice
goalkeepers Orestis Karnezis and Michalis Sifakis out of his 23-man squad for
the match against South Korea in Athens on Tuesday in order to give an
opportunity to PAOK Salonica's Panagiotis Glykos and Apollon Smyrni's
There were also recalls for Genoa winger Giannis Fetfatzidis
and veteran Atromitos striker Dimitris Papadopoulos, while Olympiakos Piraeus
defender Dimitris Siovas and Konyaspor striker Fanis Gekas miss out due to
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