Tue, Jun 19, 2012 - Page 18 News List

EURO 2012: Greece looking to bring some cheer to debt-stricken nation

AFP, SEROCK, POLAND

Greece’s Kostas Katsouranis, right, celebrates with teammate Grigoris Makos after winning 1-0 against Russia in their Euro 2012 Group A match in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday.

Photo: EPA

Swinging from underdogs to quarter-finalists at Euro 2012 is Greece’s way to bring cheer to their austerity-gripped homeland, midfielder Kostas Katsouranis said on Sunday.

“We wanted to give everybody back home something to cheer, to celebrate,” Katsouranis told reporters at the team’s training base outside the Polish capital Warsaw, a day after their shock 1-0 defeat of favorites Russia.

“Everybody in Greece — even our families, our friends, our brothers, our cousins, everyone — is having a really hard time,” he said. “The most important thing is that all of us on the team never put ourselves above the team. We represent our country. So we know what we have to do.”

Along with captain and fellow midfielder Giorgos Karagounis, suspended for the quarter-final, and goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias, who missed the Russia game due to a hamstring injury, Katsouranis is one of a trio who were in Greece’s Euro 2004 winning side.

In the wake of their shock title eight years ago, Greece failed to shine, suggesting it was a flash in the pan.

Drawn in Euro 2012’s Group A along with Russia, the Czech Republic and co-hosts Poland, they started their campaign with a 1-1 draw against the co-hosts, then lost 2-1 to the Czech Republic.

High-octane Russia had only needed a draw to make the quarter-finals, but Karagounis scored in stoppage-time in the first half and Russia could not breach Greece’s solid defense.

Katsouranis said the players were still coming to terms with having stormed into the last eight, along with the Czech Republic, who beat Poland 1-0 the same night to top the group.

“We can’t describe what we feel in words,” he said. “I think the most important thing is that, in a short period of time, we achieved the status of being among the eight best teams in Europe, and that’s a huge achievement for the Greeks.”

Greece face Germany in their quarter-final in Gdansk on Friday, but Katsouranis said Greece would take that in their stride.

“The next big challenge for us is the next match ... In my opinion, there’s no difference who the opponents are, Germany or another team. It’s a quarter-final. It’s going to be a tough, hard match,” he said.

Greece coach Fernando Santos, 57, said there are no underdogs in the knock-out phase.

“All the matches are going to be difficult, but from now on all the matches are knock-out matches, even if it’s 90 minutes or extra-time or a penalty shootout. Everything is possible,” he said. “There’s no disputing that Germany are a well-known team, a very strong team with exceptional players, and with a very good coach who’s worked with the players for years. So there’s nothing new about Germany.”

Santos bemoaned the loss of the talismanic Karagounis, suspended for earning a yellow card in two games in a row.

“He’s our captain, he’s experienced and for sure his presence is very important for the young players. It’s very sad that he won’t play, because the card wasn’t justified and that’s not fair for the whole team, but I am 100 percent sure that whoever is going to play is going to do the same job, is going to be effective like Giorgos,” Santos said.

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