We put a smile on Greek faces, says Giorgos Karagounis after defeating Russia

Greece 1 Russia 0

Triumph in adversity is a much-used phrase, but it applied perfectly to what happened on Saturday to Greece and the country's beleaguered people.

For so long defined by their economic problems, Greece's advance to the Euro 2012 quarter-finals via their gutsy 1-0 win over the heavily fancied Russians finally gave ordinary citizens a chance to feel good about themselves

Indeed, after the match the Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis, who scored the winner against Russia just before half-time, said his country's troubles had acted as the ultimate motivator. "When we left Greece, we all said we would really give it everything," he said. "We would have anyway, but the hardship made us fight more.

"We put a smile on Greek faces. It's not just that we went through, but it's the way we did it. I can't describe the feelings I have tonight."

There was more than smile on a lot of Greek faces as, on the final whistle, thousands of people poured into Omonia Square in central Athens waving the national flag, lighting green and red flares and setting off firecrackers amid the din of hundreds of honking cars and renditions of the national anthem in a spontaneous outpouring of patriotic fervour.

On the eve of pivotal elections that could decide the troubled nation's economic fate, the victory was all the sweeter because it came in true underdog style, bringing back memories of Greece's improbable run eight years ago, when they won the European Championship in Portugal against all expectations.

The one sour note was that Karagounis, who equalled the Greek appearance record of 120 matches, will miss the quarter-final through suspension after collecting a contentious booking for a supposed dive in the game against Russia.

On Saturday, everything clicked as the players followed coach Fernando Santos's mantra: "Take every challenge, defend hard, deny your opponents the chance to deploy, and victory will come."

Santos, who came to the tournament with just one defeat in 21 matches, said his players were "tremendous. They showed great tenacity and character. I had told them that they have my full trust. I told them that now is when character matters, and their response was awesome."

Defender Giorgos Tzavellas, who came in for his first match of the tournament to fill a weak spot on Greece's left , said: "We've worked so hard for this. It's fantastic. It didn't go well in the last two games, but tonight everything went well."

As the Greeks took stock of the likelihood of a last-eight meeting with Germany – the economic powerhouse of Europe as well as being second favourites to win the tournament – jokes spread across the internet and mobile phone messages poked fun at German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

One Greek message read: "Merkel get ready, it's your turn now." The way Greece played on Saturday night, who's to say that prediction might not come true?

Defeat saw Russia crash out of the tournament nine days after winning their opening game against the Czech Republic 4-1. Head coach Dick Advocaat struggled to come to terms with what was his final game in charge being branded a failure, reacting angrily to suggestions his side played badly. He said: "I think we played quite well. We went forward and the other team just defended. So, don't say that we didn't play well today.

"It's true that we conceded a goal and we simply didn't put away our chances. But in the first half I think we played really well. And, in the second half, against a team like Greece, with all respect, it was hard to play against.

"We were undefeated for 16 games and it was unfortunate. We should've won but that wasn't the case. They were leading 1-0 after the half and they are just masters at doing what they did today."

greece 1-0 russia

Goal: Greece Karagounis 45.

Subs: Greece Holebas 5 (Gekas, 64), Makos 5 (Karagounis, 67), Ninis (Salpingidis, 82). Russia Pavlyuchenko 4 (Kerzhakov, h-t), Pogrebnyak (Glushakov, 72), Izmailov (Anyukov, 81). Booked: Greece Karagounis, Holebas. Russia Anyukov, Zhirkov, Dzagoev, Pogrebnyak. Man of the match Samaras. Match rating 6/10. Poss: Greece 40%. Russia 60%. Attempts on target: Greece 2. Russia 13. Referee J Eriksson (Swe). Attendance 58,145.

 

Suggested Topics
News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
peopleBurt Reynolds, once among the most bankable actors in Hollywood, is set to auction his memorabilia
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game