World Cup 2014: Greece delight in ‘making people proud’ after famous win

Europeans stunned the Ivory Coast to progress

An earthquake measuring four on the Richter scale hit the west of Greece yesterday morning but that was nothing compared with the reverberations felt around the country after their footballers’ last-gasp World Cup triumph the night before.

There were celebrations in Athens’ Omonia Square and a message of congratulations from the Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, after his namesake, the Celtic striker Georgios, had given the country at the epicentre of Europe’s financial crisis something to celebrate.

“We really hope we can make the people happy back home,” said Samaras, having converted the injury-time penalty against Ivory Coast that put Greece into the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time.

In some ways, this Greek success recalls their unanticipated triumph at Euro 2004, when Otto Rehhagel’s side ended up champions with superb defending, deadly set pieces and a definite dalliance with Lady Luck.

Fernando Santos’s side had their backs to the wall in Fortaleza, where they began their final group game bottom. Beaten 3-0 by Colombia in their first match, they had looked set for further disappointment against Japan after losing Kostas Mitroglou to injury and captain Kostas Katsouranis to a red card before half-time only to earn a goalless draw.

There was more of the same on Tuesday when they lost two more players – midfield mastermind Panagiotis Kone and goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis – inside 23 minutes yet went on to produce arguably their best display in a decade.

 

The grizzled 37-year-old midfielder Georgios Karagounis – one of two survivors of Euro 2004 – summed up this defiance as he rolled back the years with a typically dynamic display.  “We were the better team throughout the 90 minutes and when you win right at the end, it makes it ever sweeter,” said a player released by Fulham in May. “We got what we deserved and we have made all Greeks proud.” He added somewhat lyrically that “the heart of the Greeks helps us play against the odds”.

In 2004, Greece were kings of the 1-0 win but against Didier Drogba and Co what really caught the eye was their attacking play. Greece had only scored in one of eight previous World Cup games but they counter-attacked brilliantly against Ivory Coast. Indeed, Jose Cholevas came close to scoring one of the goals of the tournament on an electric breakaway that ended with him smashing a shot against the crossbar.

It was a tactical triumph for Santos.   “We thought it would be a good idea to play with three highly mobile strikers up front,” he explained. Samaras had not scored for Greece for two years but he shone in a deep, false nine role and his conversion of the climactic penalty was ice-cool.

Next they face Costa Rica in Recife on Sunday but Euro 2004 veteran Stelios Giannakopoulos, at home in Athens, is not looking ahead. “Already it is a big achievement for Greece to qualify. Whatever happens they are going to enjoy themselves and whatever happens we’ll take it.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage