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Top facts about Antonis Nikopolidis, Greek Goalkeeping God

Sat 21 May 2022 | 4:30

Antonios Nikopolidis was declared the 23rd best goalkeeper between 2001 and 2010 out of 76 goalkeepers. Read on to find out more facts about Antonis Nikopolidis, the Greek legend.

Antonis Nikopolidis (born 14 January 1971) is a former goalkeeper for the Greece under-21 national team and a former manager of the Greek under-21 national team.

Antonis Nikopolidis’ age

is 51.

An important fact about Antonis Nikopolidis is that he is recognized as one of the finest Greek goalkeepers of all time, having earned the most caps for his country and playing a key role in Greece's Euro 2004 victory.

At the age of 18, he left his first professional team, Anagennisi Arta, to continue his career at Panathinaikos. For the first six years, he primarily served as a replacement for Polish goalkeeper Jozef Wanczyk.

In the 1989-90 season, he made his debut for Panathinaikos on February 25, 1990, in a 4-3 away win over

Olympiakos

, which was marked by numerous incidents, including him being injured in the 67th minute by a stone throwing and being replaced by George Abadiotakis.

Top facts about Antonis Nikopolidis:

An important fact about Antonis Nikopolidis is that he played five games in the Panathinaikos jersey in 1994-95 and three the following season, winning the championship in both years, while gradually establishing himself as a key player (from the 1997-98 season onwards).

Antonis Nikopolidis early life

Regarding

Antonis Nikopolidis’ childhood

, it should be mentioned that he grew up in Vigla, a seaside village in Arta, and began his football career with AE Viglas, with whom he later played in the local EPS Arta. There is no information available regarding

Antonis Nikopolidis’ parents

.

An important fact about Antonis Nikopolidis is that he began as an attacker, but due to an emergency (he has stated that he changed positions with his cousin of the same name on the day of his wedding), he once played as a goalkeeper, a position in which he was eventually established.

Antonis Nikopolidis personal life

He has been married to former basketball player Vasso Stasinou since 2000, and they have three children: Giannis (born in 2000) and the twins George and Maritina (born 2006).

In 2012, he released his autobiography, "The Struggle of My Life." It's worth noting that the book quickly became a best-seller. He was the president of the Panhellenic Association of Paid Footballers until 2010. (PSAP).

Antonis Nikopolidis professional career

An important fact about Antonis Nikopolidis is that he took part in the qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004, and in the final phase of the tournament, he kept zero at home in three knockout matches and was one of the key players in the cup's victory.

He was named the best goalkeeper in the European Championship, in which he played in all six games and conceded four goals.

Antonis Nikopolidis club career

An important fact about Antonis Nikopolidis is that he began his career with Anagennisi Arta, a local club from which he was moved to

Panathinaikos

in the summer of 1989.

Panathinaikos

During the 1990–91 season, he made his debut against Olympiacos, his future club. He was a back-up for Józef Wandzik during his early years at Panathinaikos. He appeared in five games when Panathinaikos won the title in 1995 and three more the following year.

He didn't establish himself as a regular goalkeeper until the 1997–98 season, when he was 26 years old. He led the team to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2002, but his contract talks fell through in the 2003–04 season, and he was replaced by Konstantinos Chalkias.

Panathinaikos offered him €400K per year, which he considered inadequate in comparison to his services to the team over the previous 15 years and his current market worth.

Because he did not accept the offer right away, management got suspicious and chose to bench him for the remainder of the 2003–04 season. At initially, the Greek sports media and Panathinaikos supporters sided with him in the dispute, criticizing president Vardinogiannis.

Rumours circulated shortly before UEFA Euro 2004 that Nikopolidis had been contacted by arch-rivals Olympiacos. Later, it was uncovered that he had signed a three-year contract immediately before the event that paid him €600,000 per year.

After that, the supporters' dissatisfaction with him was evident during the festivities after the team's 2003–04 season double, when Nikopolidis was booed by the majority of the audience while holding the trophy.

Olympiacos

A notable

fact about Antonis Nikopolidis

is that he joined Olympiacos shortly after helping Greece win the UEFA Euro 2004 tournament, making an instant impact for his former rival side.

He won two successive doubles after keeping a clean sheet in the first derby against his previous team, making him the first Greek player to win three straight doubles with two different clubs.

Nikopolidis gained a reputation for making game-winning saves in crucial games with his new squad. Nikopolidis demonstrated his penalty-saving ability by stopping three penalties kicks against Roma, Real Madrid, and Rosenborg BK, making him the first Olympiacos player to go unbeaten from the penalty spot in the UEFA Champions League.

A notable

fact about Antonis Nikopolidis

is that he also tied the Greek league record for most penalty kicks saved in a single season in 2007–08, with saves against PAOK and previous club Panathinaikos. Nikopolidis revealed his retirement intentions for the 2009–10 season.

Following the request of Sokratis Kokkalis, he reversed his decision to retire. The veteran goalkeeper said that he will postpone his retirement for another year in order to retire as champion. On June 16, he agreed to a contract extension that would keep him with Olympiacos for the 2010–11 season.

He also played goalie for the UNDP squad in the international match "8th Match Against Poverty" on 14 December 2010 at Karaiskakis Stadium in Greece.

Nikopolidis was included to the IFFHS list of the top goalkeepers of the first decade in January 2011. In addition, he was named one of the top goalkeepers from 1987 to 2011. Olympiacos won the title on March 20, 2011, when they defeated AEK Athens F.C. 6–0 at Karaiskakis Stadium.

On April 17, 2011, he made his last appearance in a 6–0 win against Larissa F.C. at Karaiskakis Stadium. He was replaced by Balázs Megyeri in the last minutes as a final curtain call, so he could wave farewell to the Olympiacos supporters. He was the Olympiacos captain who accepted the championship trophy after the game.

Antonis Nikopolidis international career

On August 18, 1999, Nikopolidis made his national football team debut against El Salvador. He participated in the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifying rounds and Euro 2004 qualifying rounds, when he excelled and helped

Greece

qualify for the finals.

A notable

fact about Antonis Nikopolidis

is that he was a key part of Greece's victory in Portugal, keeping three clean sheets in the knockout rounds. He was also named to the Euro 2004 All Star team as a goalkeeper.

Nikopolidis announced his retirement from international football after Euro 2008 on June 15, 2008, citing that he had taken the choice before the tournament began and that a fundamental shift in the Greek national team is long overdue.

Antonis Nikopolidis style of play

Nikopolidis' game was noted for its calmness, dexterity, and simplicity. Despite his lack of size, height, agility, or athleticism, he was an efficient shot-stopper, and his ability to read and comprehend the game allowed him to run swiftly off his line to meet one-on-one situations or function as a sweeper-keeper.

A notable fact about Antonis Nikopolidis is that he could also handle and kick the ball with ease and safety when he had it at his feet. Despite these abilities, he was inept in collecting crosses, a flaw that caused him to make blunders throughout his career.

Antonis Nikopolidis and Euro glory

Rarely has a nation dedicated to intellectual contemplation and serious thinking been rendered mute. Even Socrates and Plato would have struggled to come up with a plausible explanation for the craziness during Euro 2004.

Only the wild displays of exuberant celebration in Athens broke through the shock as the final whistle sounded in the twilight sky of Lisbon's Estadio da Luz stadium. Greece, a country that had been completely irrelevant in football for nearly a century, had just won the European Champions.

Greece's victory in Portugal was the embodiment of an underdog narrative, with a manager in his first international job at the helm and a team bereft of any talismanic superstar to put their faith in.

With nothing to look forward to beyond Euro 2004, Otto Rehhagel's side remains the zenith of Greek footballing glory, as well as a case study in the strength of a collective unit to overcome individual talent.

Up until Otto Rehhagel came over, Greece was not only unfancied on the world stage, but also awful. Between 1934 and 2002, Greece tried to qualify for just two international tournaments, both of which ended without a victory or goal for the national team.

With major tensions between Olympiakos, Panathinaikos, and AEK Athens, creating a working national team was a difficult challenge for the manager in charge, and with yet another World Cup qualifying on the verge of failure, the Greek FA determined something had to change in the summer of 2001.

In walked German manager

Otto Rehhagel

, who had just led Kaiserslautern to the Bundesliga championship in the season after their promotion from the second tier.

Rehhagel, a hard-nosed defender who never hesitated away from a challenge, carried similar ideals into his managerial positions. Rehhagel was known for his organization and his teams' unified front, which he built around aerially dominating centre backs.

Rehhagel qualified the national team for the Euros three years after his hiring. Thousands of Greek football fans had already gained Rehhagel's respect, eager to exchange another quiet summer vacation for the excitement of an international event.

Greece was unbeaten for the full calendar year in 2003, and went to the Finals in Portugal determined to do better than the lifeless group-stage exits that had marred the country's previous two tournament outings.

A group-stage start with Portugal, the tournament hosts and one of the favorites to win the championship in 22 days, lies between a historic victory and a third defeat.

Luiz Felipe Scolari had a wealth of attacking options, including the aging players

Luis Figo

, Rui Costa, and Pauleta, as well as the torch-bearer for the new generation, 19-year-old

Cristiano Ronaldo

.

To add to this pool of offensive potential, the nucleus of the Porto team that had won the Champions League weeks before was available, with the midfield three of Costinha, Maniche, and Deco ranking among the finest in the world at the time.

Even Rehagel's tough Greek defense seemed to be fatally outgunned as the teams lined up at the Estádio do Drago, with no host failing to win their first match since the group stages were inaugurated in 1980.

Though Greece's achievements that summer are most known for their defensive tenacity, they were the brighter of the two teams, with Georgios Karagounis capitalizing on a disastrous first touch from Paulo Ferreira to put the Ethniki ahead.

Karagounis sprang into his countryman's arms, ecstatic to be reunited with the traveling Greek supporters who, for the first time, had put their dividing club allegiances aside.

With the burden of a poor international record removed from the nation's mind, all that remained was for the Greeks to win their first tournament.

Greece went two up in the second half when a poor tackle by half-time replacement Cristiano Ronaldo gave them a penalty, allowing them to dig in with the logical strategy that would enrage neutrals looking for a tournament of offensive flair and end-to-end play.

The Greece defense stayed strong as Scolari's team fired long-range pop shots that never threatened Antonis Nikopolidis in the Greek goal. Ronaldo's stunning header in stoppage time may have saved his own blushes early in the half, but it couldn't save the home side.

As a chorus of shouts and moans greeted the full-time whistle, Greece had achieved something few could have anticipated in their wildest dreams: not only winning an international tournament, but also utterly neutralizing one of the best offensive skill pools in the world at the moment.

Greece looked revitalized, free of the burden of their dreadful finals record, which had now been broken. After defeating the hosts' talented squad on the first day, Greece could have qualified with a win against Spain, defeating the two Iberian Peninsula heavyweights in only four days.

After Fernando Moreintes' 29th-minute goal was cancelled out by Angelos Charisteas' volley in the second half, a draw would have to suffice. With

Portugal

defeating

Russia

in their Group A encounter, everything was on the line for the last match.

Few would have predicted that Greece would be in contention for qualifying by the third group stage match, never alone in first position.

With just a decimated Russia side standing in the way of a quarterfinal berth, even the most pessimistic Ethniki supporters would have been optimistic about the team's possibilities.

However, the old face of the national team creeped up again after a terrible defensive blunder after 68 seconds. After 15 minutes, the Greek defense had fully opened up, allowing Dmitri Bulykin to score a free header from Rolan Gusev's corner kick.

Shortly before halfway, Zissis Vryzas equalized, but as the minutes ticked down to the final whistle, attention started to shift to the contest between Portugal and Spain.

Nuno Gomes had put the hosts ahead in the 57th minute, but the 1-0 result kept things in Group A close, with Spain and Greece tied on four points and a goal difference of zero.

If the results remained the same, Rehhagel's team would progress, with the Greeks scoring two more goals in the tournament than the Spaniards.

However, a goal for Russia or Spain would alter everything, sending Greece home. Despite further Russian pressure, the outcomes stayed the same. Greece advanced to the quarter-finals with their tails between their legs, knowing that another slip-up would be the end of their lucky escape route.

Morale was at an all-time high in Greece, with the country's split fans unified around the blue and white flag. France, the reigning European champions and international football giants, stood between Greece and another miracle.

Despite having an older team than the one that had defeated Italy four years before, Les Blues were still contenders for the championship, with a talented roster that was identified with the Gallic rooster on their badge.

The whole world waited anxiously to witness Jacques Santini's side demolish the Greeks, with every neutral fan anticipating another 90 minutes of grace from

Zinedine Zidane

.

For the first time since joining Los Blancos, Zidane had a tough season at Real Madrid, failing to win a trophy. Despite being the reigning European player of the year, the Frenchman was reaching the conclusion of his spectacular career at 31 years old, and his skills were clearly waning.

Few expected Zizou to go into Portugal with the same hunger for triumph as he did in the 1998 World Cup on home soil, having won everything conceivable for both club and country.

After three games, however, Zidane was back to his best, leading the tournament in goals scored and dazzled fans with his displays.

Zidane had his eyes set on another international success, this time leading a squad that had the mercurial talents of Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet, and Robert Pires. He was not about to let a weak Greek national team stand in his way.

Rehhagel's game strategy became evident as Swedish referee Anders Frisk whistled to start the quarter-final, irritating the bald-headed master with continuous nagging fouls and pressure.

France's offensive stagnated as a result of not enabling Zidane to command the game as he had done in the previous three games, with the team frequently seeking for pop shots from beyond the box or individual moments of brilliance.

Even when the French had a moment of brilliance, Greece was able to get a body in front of them, usually having a defender back to make a last-ditch challenge or a key headed clearance.

At the hour mark, a wonderful clipped ball to Angelos Charisteas' head gave the Ethniki a shock lead, and Greece held on with the usual solid defense that had become a cornerstone of Rehhagel's rebuilding of the team.

The travelling support erupted in applause as the final whistle blew, their numbers and excitement rising with each encounter as their countrymen continued to stun European football.

The Greeks celebrated with triumphal jubilation, for the first time starting to dream of hoisting international silverware, while the ensemble of French brilliance scattered down the tunnel with a combination of rage and shame.

The Czech Republic was the next opponent, a semi-final opponent that would get a standing ovation in 2021 but was one of the best teams in the world in 2004.

The 2004 Nároák, led by reigning Ballon D'Or winner Pavel Nedvd, the 6'6 aerial threat Jan Koller up front, and emerging stars like Petr Cech, Tomas Rosicky, and

Milan Baros

, were seeking to go one step further than the 1996 Nároák, who lost in the final to West Germany.

Unlike the French, who struggled to create chances, the Czechs continued their offensive zeal that saw them win a group that included Germany and Holland, flooding the Greek goal with opportunity after chance.

Greece could never get a handle on Koller up top, who dominated aerial duels and bullied a Greek defense that had appeared so good in three of their four games.

After slamming a Koller knockdown against the crossbar three minutes in, Rosicky had his own near call midway in the half, looping a header over Nikopolidis only for the woodwork to save him once again.

As the teams proceeded into halftime, the sole bright spot for The Ethniki was the forced removal of

Pavel Nedved

, the Czech captain who had been hurt 4 minutes before the break in an innocuous tackle.

The opponent's primary star had been negated, just as it had been in the France encounter, but Greece's opponents seemed unfazed, with the Czechs resuming where they had left off in the opening 45 minutes. Nikopolidis' excellent saves and Jan Koller's startling 80th-minute mistake maintained the score at 0:0, necessitating extra time and another 30 minutes of misery.

Greece was fortunate. Unlike the game against Russia, when they were defeated by their own blunders and folly, Greece was outplayed in the semi-final 11 days later, unable to deal with Koller's physical dominance or Rosicky's technical elegance.

Despite defeating Portugal and France, all evidence pointed to this amazing trip ending in the same stadium where it started 19 days before.

However, thirty minutes is a long time in football, especially after playing 360 minutes in the heat for the previous 20 days. As both sets of players' legs and thoughts started to weary, gaps began to open up, and both defensive groups became increasingly error-prone.

The Ethniki happily welcomed the gifts, regaining a footing in the contest after being unable to produce any clear cut chances throughout normal time. Traianos Dellas led his people into joy after a 105th-minute corner enabled the huge centre backs to move forward.

The veteran, who had only appeared in 20 games for AS Rome in three years, had suddenly become a national hero, with the childish manner with which he had dealt with Koller long gone.

The Greek supporters hailed the final whistle with unrivaled fervor, firing red fireworks into the night sky as the whole nation rejoiced. The Ethniki had advanced to the European Final for the second time in four days, with a familiar face awaiting them at the final stage.

Portugal had bounced back in style after losing their first group stage encounter to Greece, winning their next four matches on route to the final.

No one could foresee a replay of the first match in front of their home supporters, with an immaculate Cristiano Ronaldo,

Deco

, and Figo forming the side's creative center.

However, the final quickly resembled the previous match, with Greece's bunkered defense driving the Portuguese into speculative long-range tries.

Without an aerial danger like Jan Koller, the Greek defense appeared more secure, rushing in front of shoots, closing openings for Deco or Figo to exploit, and maintaining a deep line to lessen the effect of Ronaldo's blistering speed.

By halftime, the game had devolved into a drab midfield brawl with numerous mistakes and no extended periods of possession. It would take either a set piece for Greece or individual brilliance from one of Portugal's players to turn this game around, and that is exactly what occurred in the 57th minute.

Angelos Basinas waited patiently for the defenders to charge forward. For other teams, corner kicks were a futile exercise that ended with a hopeless ball into the box. It was the major source of a goal danger for the Greeks.

Angelos Charisteas jumped into the air, getting an inch on his marker Costinha and put his country in ahead with a swinging ball between the penalty spot and Ricardo's goal.

Charisteas had only scored four headed goals in seven seasons in the German Bundesliga, but in the summer of 2004, Charisteas' head was possibly the most lethal weapon in football, ruthlessly smashing the ball into the net against both

France

and Portugal to convert fantasies into reality.

Despite constant bombardment from the Portuguese, Greece held out, and as the final whistle blew, they went from heroes to gods. Whereas Greece had previously rejoiced jubilantly at full time, their initial response was shock, unable to comprehend what they had just accomplished.

Though the tears of an adolescent Ronaldo are remembered most vividly from that final, Antonis Nikopolidis' full-time response is no less moving.

Since 1999, Nikopolidis had been The Ethniki's first choice goalkeeper, and he had been a part of every loss and agony, every missed qualification, and innumerable embarrassments.

Now, 33 years old and a European Champion, he was establishing himself as a national hero as he led a defense that didn't surrender a goal in 300 minutes of knockout game against the best in Europe.

There was no spectacular offensive football to captivate fans in Greece's European triumph, no fascinating wingers whose skill prompted youngsters to walk out into the street and attempt to emulate what they watched on television.

Instead, Greece benefited from its lack of an offensive superstar, building a feeling of solidarity and a resolve to resist a 90-minute barrage of attacks.

Greece didn't show the world exquisite football with three successive 1-0 victory, two of which came from a corner kick. Instead, they provided an antithesis, a means to play at the top level when one isn't spoilt by offensive resources and great talent.

While a 19-year-old Ronaldo or a 23-year-old Tomas Rosicky had spectators on the edge of their seats for three weeks, it is Greece's incredible journey to triumph that has stayed with us almost 17 years later.

Antonis Nikopolidis managerial career

After retiring, Nikopolidis joined Olympiacos as an assistant manager in 2012. He was promoted to manager in January 2013 on an interim basis following the dismissal of Leonardo Jardim. After the arrival of Míchel, he stayed on the squad as his assistant.

A notable fact about Antonis Nikopolidis is that he departed Olympiacos at the conclusion of the 2012–13 season to pursue a career as a head coach. He was chosen manager of Greece's national under-21 football team on October 1, 2015.

Some more facts about Antonis Nikopolidis:

In 2002, he helped Panathinaikos reach the Champions League quarterfinals, but in the 2003-04 season, he lost his starting spot to Costas Chalkias, owing primarily to the failure of contract renewal negotiations.

Panathinaikos offered him a three-year contract (with a fee of approximately 400,000 euros per year and a zero clause in case he left for a team abroad), an offer he did not accept (he asked for 600,000 euros per year), and as a result it lost its starting spot for the remainder of the season (from the end of February 2004).

Initially, the sports press and Panathinaikos fans supported him because they saw the management's actions as wrong and demeaning to the footballer, while later rumors circulated that he had already agreed to terms with Olympiakos.

He finally won the double with Panathinaikos in the 2003-04 season, but his transfer to Olympiakos (with a three-year contract and an annual salary of around 600,000 euros) had leaked before its expiration, causing the celebration for winning the double to be met with disapproval from some fans when he lifted the trophy.

The official announcement of his transfer to Olympiakos was made a few days after the conclusion of Euro 2004, and he took his first public position, stating that the management of Panathinaikos treated him unprofessionally and that he had no moral hesitation in becoming an Olympiacos player.

With the number 71 on his shirt, which represents his birth year, he helped Olympiakos win two consecutive doubles and became the first (and so far, only) Greek footballer to win three consecutive doubles. Including the conquest of Euro 2004, he won seven titles in 36 months.

For the next three seasons, he remained Olympiacos' primary goalkeeper, winning an equal number of consecutive championships (2007-2009) and two more doubles (2008-09), totaling seven doubles (3 with Panathinaikos and four with Olympiakos), a record number for Nikopolidis.

During the 2009-10 season, he announced his intention to retire from active competition, but at the urging of then-Olympic President Socrates Kokkalis, he reconsidered and decided to stay for another year.

After lifting the trophy of the 2010-11 championship with Vassilis Torosidis, he announced his retirement from active action on April 17, 2011, leaving as a change from the championship's final match. He took part in the First National 369 times in total.

On 18 August 1999, he made his debut for Greece in a friendly against

El Salvador

(3-1), and two years later he became the national team's main goalkeeper.

On June 15, 2008, a day after Greece's 1-0 defeat to Russia in Euro 2008 and elimination from the tournament's final phase, he announced his departure from the national team, claiming that he had made that decision prior to the start of the event and regardless of Greece's performance.

He made a total of 90 appearances, which places him sixth all-time in Greek history in terms of participations.

He pursued a coaching career after retiring from active duty. From October 2012, he was Leonardo Zardim's assistant coach at Olympiakos, and in January 2013, he temporarily replaced the Portuguese on the Piraeus team's bench.

Mitchell stayed on as an assistant coach after taking over the technical leadership, but he left permanently at the end of the season.

In July 2014, he rejoined the Spanish coaching staff, taking over for the retired Victor Sanchez. The solution to his collaboration with the Piraeus club was made public in March 2015. On September 30, 2015, he assumed technical leadership of Elpida's national team.

Antonis Nikopolidis social media

Regarding

Antonis Nikopolidis social media

, it should be mentioned that he has an Instagram page (

@nikopolidisa71

) with more than 39k followers. On the page, we can see various pictures of him along with his fans and family.

Antonis Nikopolidis body measurements

Speaking about

Antonis Nikopolidis body measurements

, it should be mentioned that the former player is 187cm and 88kg.

Antonis Nikopolidis net worth and salary

Antonis Nikopolidis’ net worth

is estimated to be around $11 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.

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