Fri, Jun 20, 2008 - Page 24 News List

Surging Spain inflict more misery on deposed Greeks

AFP , SALZBURG, AUSTRIA

Spain equaled their record of nine straight wins with a 2-1 defeat of Greece on Wednesday that confined the reigning champions to their third defeat of the tournament.

Andreas Charisteas opened the scoring for Greece before Ruben De la Red equalized and Daniel Guiza struck an 88th minute winner.

Spanish coach Luis Aragones immediately turned his thoughts to Sunday’s quarter-final with Italy, for decades Spain’s bogey side.

“Now we are going to focus on the quarter-final with Italy. It will be complicated and we will have to be at 110 percent,” Aragones said. “I think the team is ready for this kind of match. It learned a lot at the World Cup” in 2006 — when Spain looked very sharp only to crash out to France in the second phase.”

There was nothing riding on Wednesday’s game and for the first quarter both sides played as if in a training match.

Greece, who had already been knocked out before the game began, were surprisingly defensive for a game that mattered little and in which both teams had fielded weakened outfits.

Spain, already group winners, had actually made 10 changes from the starting XI that won their two previous matches.

Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso had the first effort on goal on 23 minutes, and had it gone in it would surely have been the goal of the tournament.

Spotting Greece goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis, captain for the day as he was playing in his final match for his country, well off his line, Alonso hit a Beckham-esque shot from five yards inside his own half, missing the top corner by only inches with the back-peddling Nikopolidis beaten.

Surprisingly, Alonso seemed the only person trying to score in that opening period and he sent two long-range shots wide of the left-hand upright.

Greece’s German boss Otto Rehhagel, architect of their 2004 triumph, blamed poor luck for his side’s demise.

“We didn’t have the necessary luck and the Spaniards showed more alertness. But we wanted to take our leave in dignified fashion and we achieved that,” he said.

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