Greece gave their troubled
country a lift it desperately needed by stunning Russia 1-0
against the odds to reach the Euro 2012 quarter-finals on
Saturday and send their opponents out of the tournament.
Facing a tense election back home and mired in a deep
financial crisis, Greece secured victory with a Giorgos
Karagounis goal deep into first-half stoppage-time to put his
side through as Group A runners-up.
Czech Republic, thrashed 4-1 by Russia in their opening
game, beat Poland 1-0 to reach the last eight as group winners
on six points.
Greece and Russia, who could not repeat their impressive
opening win which had commentators purring, were next with four,
with Fernando Santos's side progressing thanks to the
Greek players and coaching staff celebrated wildly on the
pitch in front of their small section of fans who had been
heavily outnumbered by the large Russian contingent that
descended on the Polish capital.
Greece stunned the football world by winning Euro 2004 as
huge outsiders and could be on a roll again after the much
maligned traits of being a well-organised, if limited side,
proved a hurdle the more talented Russians, let down by wayward
shooting, could not cross.
Santos, the Portuguese coach charged with following 'King
Otto' Rehhagel, the German who led Greece to triumph eight years
ago, said his side had been inspired "by the history of Greece".
"What we have achieved is very important," Santos, sitting
with a Greece scarf draped around his neck, told a news
"Greece has huge pride for its history. Everyone has to
Russia, who had raised hopes of emulating their run to the
semi-finals four years ago, appeared to have their destiny in
their own hands as they topped the group coming into the game.
But despite the best promptings of Andrei Arshavin, their
woeful finishing let them down and fate conspired against them
elsewhere, with the Czech Republic's victory over the Poles
ensuring it was the final match in charge of Russia for Dutch
coach Dick Advocaat.
Advocaat, heading back home to take charge of PSV Eindhoven,
said his side were not sharp enough to score.
"Even though we lost today we played brilliantly in the
first half," he said.
"Then they got a goal and that created a different story.
"We didn't have the sharpness to score that goal."
Russia had 25 shots to Greece's five and 62 percent of
possession. But that counted for nothing as Greece, facing a win
or bust game after taking just one point from two matches, took
their chance when it mattered as the Russians fell asleep at the
After withstanding long spells of pressure, Greece struck in
the closing seconds of the opening half.
Midfielder and captain Karagounis, winning his 120th cap to
equal Theodor Zagorakis's record for his country, took advantage
of poor marking at a throw-in to race into the box and fire hard
past Vyacheslav Malafeev.
Victory and his goal were bittersweet for Karagounis who
will be suspended for the quarter-final after a second-half
yellow card shown for diving, when the Greeks were convinced
they should have been awarded a penalty.
"The moment is pure magic for all of us," Karagounis said.
"This night is very important, it is something important for
Greece for all Greeks. We said we would give it all, despite all
"We scored at exactly the moment we needed to. Now it is
time to celebrate."
The Greek party now heads to Gdansk and a quarter-final
showdown with the winners of Group B which Germany lead heading
into the last round of matches.
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