Euro 2012: Greece 1-0 Russia - Greek fire stuns Russians

NO ONE does the shock better than Greece, winners of Euro 2004, and now in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 after beating Dick Advocaat’s Russia in Warsaw last night.

NO ONE does the shock better than Greece, winners of Euro 2004, and now in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 after beating Dick Advocaat’s Russia in Warsaw last night.

Scorers: Greece - Karagounis (45)

Giorgos Karagounis did the damage with a goal just before half-time as the team who started the night bottom of Group A upset all the odds by qualifying along with the Czech Republic.

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Victory and his goal were bittersweet for Karagounis who will be suspended for the quarter-final after a second-half yellow card shown for diving.

“The moment is pure magic for all of us,” Karagounis said. “This night is very important, it is something important for Greece for all Greeks. We said we would give it all, despite all the difficulties.

“We scored at exactly the moment we needed to. Now it is time to celebrate.”

Russia coach Dick Advocaat said his team had played well. “We went forward,” he said. “The other team just defended. We didn’t put away our chances but I don’t think it’s fair to say that we didn’t play well.

“We were undefeated for 16 games. We should have won today, that wasn’t the case and that is football. All compliments to Greece.”

With Celtic’s Georgios Samaras contributing to an industrious, disciplined performance, they were resilient in the first half, and repeatedly dangerous in the second, when they hit the post and were denied a clear-cut penalty. It was a humiliating night for Advocaat, who exited the tournament, despite topping the group beforehand. They finished level on points with Greece, whose head-to-head success took them through.

Advocaat cut his usual stubborn figure on the touchline, lips pursed, arms folded, jacket sleeves halfway up those popeye forearms. A decade has passed since he left Rangers, a club now liquidated thanks partly to the money he was allowed to spend at Ibrox, although it is safe to assume that the SPL vote on what to do with the newco has not been exercising his mind lately.

Advocaat, who will now begin a second spell with PSV Eindhoven, has had a tough job keeping up the standards set by previous Russian manager Guus Hiddink in Euro 2008, when they reached the semi-finals with a slick brand of free-flowing football, although there have been reminders, especially in their opening game against the Czech Republic, of their potential to entertain. They dominated the first half here. Aleksandr Kerzhakov had an early shot that cut across the goalkeeper and faded wide of the upright. Andrei Arshavin nearly scored when he stepped in ahead of Vasilis Torosidis, but the goalkeeper, Michalis Sifakis, parried his stabbed effort.

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The dynamics of the group did not suit Greece. Only a win would give them any chance of progressing, but they are not a team inclined to take risks, and it showed during the first half.

The Greeks, though, know their strengths, and don’t mind playing to them. Just as they had weathered a storm created by Poland in their opening game, so they soaked up Russia’s best efforts for most of the first half, before hitting them with a sucker-punch on the stroke of half-time. When Yuri Zhirkov dealt sloppily with a throw-in, Karagounis capitalised by homing in on goal and striking a low shot into the bottom corner.

It was a sore one for Advocaat, who responded by withdrawing Kerzhakov, and replacing him with Roman Pavlyuchenko, the former Tottenham striker. It didn’t make life much easier for the Russians, who came up against a wall of Greek defenders, and too often had to rely on long-range shots. Greece, on the other hand, were growing in confidence. Samaras hit a lame effort wide when he should have passed and Karagounis was denied what looked a certain penalty. Tripped in the box by Sergey Ignashevich, he made no secret of his disgust when he got up to find that he had been booked for diving.