Dual nationality hitman Apostolos Giannou is set to be rushed into the Greek national team for Saturday’s (AEDT) international against Luxembourg to finally extinguish any hopes Australia had of snaring the former Joey for the green and gold.
The joint top scorer in the Greek Super League with seven goals from nine starts for high-flying Asteras Tripolis, Giannou sparked a clamour for his inclusion in the Greek setup when he last month signalled his interest in being capped by the Socceroos, having played for both Greece and Australia at junior level.
Calls in Greece for the 25 year-old to be kept out of the clutches of Australia did not go unheeded, amid enquiries from FFA's legal department to determine his eligibilty for the Socceroos.
Under FIFA regulations, Giannou would have been unable to switch back to Australia, having already swapped associations once in favour of Greece during his youth career.
But there was uncertainty over whether the relevant paperwork was ever officially processed by the Greek authorities, leaving an air of ambiquity which the Greeks have now moved to eradicate once and for all.
Giannou will finally be lost to Australia if, as anticipated, he gets game time under new coach, German Michael Skibbe, in Luxembourg as Greece rebuilds after a disastrous Euro 2016 qualification campaign left them bottom of their group, embarrassed and looking to unearth new talent.
The striker, who has expressed equal devotion to both countries, was on the bench against Hungary in March but didn’t get on, theoretically leaving the door open for Australia.
“I am excited to get this call up and while of course Australia is a huge part of my life, and my parents and brother still live there, Greece has come calling for me and I am proud to have the chance, just as I would be for Australia," Giannou said.
After making eight appearances for the Joeys, Giannou went on to win seven caps for Greece’s Under-19s and 13 for the Under-21s.
He was part of a Socceroos’ train-on squad in 2009 and two years later was earmarked for second look by Australian scouts while on the books of PAOK but was left out of the line up on the two occasions they visited.
Having overcome an ankle injury, he has joined his new teammates in camp in a rich vein of form in Greece, where he is contracted with Asteras Tripolis until 2018.
He hopes that international exposure will help attract the attention of bigger clubs elsewhere in Europe.
“I have ambitions to play in one of the bigger leagues like England, Germany, Italy or Spain one day and hopefully if I can make an impression for Greece, if I am picked, then it could help take my game to another level," said Giannou, who played with Oakleigh Cannons and South Melbourne as a teenager.
“I want to test myself at the very highest level possible, like any footballer.”
Having scored 10 goals last year while with Panionios, in a deeper lying role, he is flourishing as a stand-alone marksman.
“It’s a different role this season and it’s all about goals ... that’s my job and it’s working for me at the moment,” he said.