|< Prev||Next >|
2004 Champions Greece shocked the mighty Russians by a solitary goal to unexpectedly go through to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. The Russians were on top for most of the game, but couldnâ€™t find their way past a solid Greek defence, who played beyond their individual ability to hang on for the unlikeliest of wins. Greece looked down and out before the match, having been bottom of the group table with group toppers Russia to play. However, they put their bodies on the line to keep the Russians out after having taken the lead through inspirational captain Karagounis to turn the Group A table on its head. The Greeks go through to the next round at the expense of the Russians on account of winning the fixture between the two teams. Greece displayed a performance reminiscent of the 2004 team, but would have to do without the suspended duo of Giorgos Karagounis and Jose Holebas in their quarter-final against Group B winners (probably Germany) on Friday, 22nd June.
Greece rang in the changes again after a disappointing 2-1 loss to Czech Republic last time around. They lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Michalis Sifakis coming in for Kostas Chalkias, who went off injured early in the last game, between the posts. Theofanis Gekas was also back in the line-up and headed the team up top. Giorgos Samaras was switched to the wings and had the first game goal scorer Dimitris Salpingidis and Captain Karagounis for support in the attacking midfield positions. Sokratis Papastathopoulos also started, after missing out the last match due to suspension.
The Russians made one change to their previous starting line-up. However, it was not the change expected up-top as the wasteful Aleksandr Kerzhakov kept his place. Instead it was a forced change as Konstantin Zyrynov missed out due to illness, with Denis Glushako taking his place. Manager Dick Advocaat retained their attacking 4-3-3 formation even though only a point was needed, as he declared his intention to win and remain top of the group. Andrei Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev were the danger men in attack while Igor Denisov and Roman Shirokov held together the midfield.
The Greeks importantly started well for the first time in the tournament, dominating possession and attacking in this must-win encounter. However, it was the Russians who had the best chances to score and could have been in front as early as the 3rd minute when an Arshavin miscue looked to have put Shirokov through. But Sifakis raced off his line to gather before the player could reach the ball.
While the Greeks were looking dangerous from set-plays, the Russians threatened on the counter. Captain Arshavin could have put the Russians in the lead on one such occasion, but his scuffed effort following a Dzagoev cross was straight at the goalkeeper. The joint-highest goalscorer then had a chance of his own following a well-worked quick free-kick, only to blast it miles high from inside the box. The wasteful Kerzhakov almost opened his account at the tournament, but his brilliant half-volley swerved a little too much, ending up on the wrong side of the post.
The Russians were gradually growing into the game and had another excellent chance to break the deadlock. Arshavin held the ball up under pressure before releasing Zhirkov down the left wing following a Greek corner. The former Chelsea left-back burst past into the box past a host of players and pulled back the ball for his teammates to slot into an empty net, however, Katsouranis reached there first and blasted it clear.
After a brief period where neither team could create any clear-cut opportunities, Kerzhakov found a good opening in the Greece box, but did what he has done the whole tournament, fluff his shot as the opportunity went begging. Then Zirkhov let fly from outside the box, only to see the ball go inches above the post. The Russians had shots after shots blocked as the Greeks put their bodies in the way to make sure they didnâ€™t concede.
And just when it looked like that the Russians would have to go into the break disappointed at still being level, the Greeks landed a suckerpunch and scored against the run of play to leave the Russians fuming. Two Russian players collided while contesting for a header from a long throw in, only for the ball to go through to Karagounis. The Greece captain gladly accepted the opportunity, rushing into the box before drilling a shot right through the keeper with the last kick of the half.
The Russians started off the second half just as they did the first, all guns blazing. Dick Advocaat brought on former Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko in place of the ineffective Kerzhakov at the interval. However, it was the Greeks who looked menacing on the counter, with Giorgos Samaras doing well to hold up ball and go past the Russian defenders on more than one occasion.
The first Russian attempt of the second half came from the boot of Shirokov, who should have kept his volley down from a precise head back following a back post cross. The next turn was Denisovâ€™s, who produced a thunderous strike only to see it curl away from the goal.
Then came the major moment of controversy on the hour mark, when Greeceâ€™s captain Karagounis did well to go past a defender, only to fall down in the box. The referee decided to book Karagounis, ruling him out of the next match, instead of giving the penalty. There was definitely some contact, although Karagounis did seem to extend his leg a bit to make sure the defender touched him.
The Greeks were the width of the post away from doubling their lead in the 70th minute. Tzavellas hit a beautiful left-footed curling free-kick which left the keeper Malafeev rooted to his spot; only for it to hit the woodwork.
The Russians went for all-out attack but couldnâ€™t muster any goalscoring opportunity until the 83rd minute. Russiaâ€™s topscorer Dzagoev got ahead of the defenders to head Arshavin's cross which beat the Greece goalkeeper, but went agonizingly wide after kissing the post. The Russians couldnâ€™t find their way through a resolute Greek defence, and were as a result knocked out of the competition against all odds and expectations.
Greece: Sifakis, Maniatis, K. Papadopoulos, Tzavellas, Torossidis, Papastathopoulos, Karagounis (Makos 67'), Katsouranis, Samaras, Salpingidis (Ninis 82'), Gekas (Holebas 64')
SUBS: Chalkias, Tzorvas, Malezas, Holebas, Makos, Fotakis, Ninis, Fortounis, Fetfatzidis, Liberopoulos, Mitroglou.
Russia: Malafeev, Anyukov (Izmailov 81'), Berezutski, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Shirokov, Denisov, Glushakov (Pogrebniak 72'), Dzagoev, Arshavin, Kerzhakov (Pavlyuchenko 46')
SUBS: Akinfeev, Shunin, Sharonov, Granat, Nababkin, Izmailov, Kombarov, Kokorin, Semshov, Zyryanov, Pavlyuchenko, Pogrebnyak
Final Score: Greece 1-0 Russia (Karagounis 45+2')
File Photograph Copyright: Ryu Voelkel
- 18/06/2012 23:10 - Euro 2012: Late show wins it for Spain as defending champs top Group C
- 17/06/2012 23:23 - Euro 2012: Ronaldo brace against Netherlands sends Portugal through to the Quarter-finals
- 17/06/2012 23:21 - Euro 2012: Germany down gritty Danes 2-1 to book quarter-final berth opposite Greece