Giannakopoulos predicts early elimination for hosts

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The Independent Football

The Greece midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos is confident his side will make the Euro 2004 quarter-finals - but does not believe host nation Portugal will join them.

Greece top Group A and are on the brink of winning a place in the last eight after beating Portugal and drawing with Spain.

Giannakopoulos will have to watch from the sidelines as his team bid to seal their quarter-final place in their final game against Russia after suffering a calf injury. But the Bolton player is confident the Greeks can progress and expects Spain to join them by beating the hosts in Lisbon.

The 29-year-old said: "We played the way we did against Portugal, but I felt we were facing a much stronger team in Spain. It is obvious that Spain is a better team and they have much better quality throughout their team than Portugal, I feel that it will be Spain who will get through to the last eight - with us.

"Holding Spain was the biggest proof that we could manage to show everybody that we are not here on vacation.

"We did not want to discover that Portugal is a good country to relax in on your holidays. We didn't come here to dream on the beach and swim in the sea. Although it is certainly very nice and warm here, a bit warmer than Bolton."

Giannakopoulos limped off after 49 minutes of the 1-1 draw with Spain yesterday but had hoped to prove his fitness for the tie against the already eliminated Russians.

His absence means coach, Otto Rehhagel, will now have to make two midfield changes with Giorgos Karagounis also missing through suspension.

Giannakopoulos insists, however, that the pressure will not be on the Greeks come the final round of Group A games on Sunday.

He added: "Now that Portugal have beaten Russia it means we are virtually in the quarter-finals, then anything can happen. We have to lose to Russia and Portugal must beat Spain for us not to go through now.

"It is much better for us now to be playing a Russian side who have lost both their games and are out of the tournament. I would not want to be in the shoes of Portugal and Spain, knowing that one of them will go out when they play."

One of the unluckiest players in the Greek squad is Leicester's Nikolaos Dabizas, who has been struggling with a minor injury that has kept him on the bench so far. But he too was delighted with Greece's progress. "We have wanted all along to show that we are not here just to make up the numbers," he said.

"It was no coincidence that we achieved this result, after the victory over Portugal we have wanted to prove that it was not a fluke.

"Spain had us under a lot of pressure, they were on top of the game but physically the side was assured. When we were one down we had to be very careful, we needed to attack but we knew we could not give them any gaps to exploit.

"It was a very difficult thing to do against such good players, but we managed to find the right balance and grab that equaliser. It is not the same as how you play when you are leading or level, you know one mistake can give your opponents a two-goal lead and that is so hard to come back from."