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EUROPE > Greece beats Russia 1-0 to earn quarterfinal spot

ATHENS - The Associated Press

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Greek players celebrate after the Euro 2012 championships football match Greece vs Russia on June 16, 2012 at the National Stadium in Warsaw. AFP Photo

Greek players celebrate after the Euro 2012 championships football match Greece vs Russia on June 16, 2012 at the National Stadium in Warsaw. AFP Photo

Greece's national football team restored some pride to a crisis-hit nation.

The team's 1-0 win over Russia at the European Championship yesterday touched off a wave of celebrations by fans back home who have been battered by an ongoing financial crisis and years of austerity. The win put Greece in the quarterfinals and eliminated the Russians.

"We are proud that we gave the people back home some joy and a break from their problems, even for a short while," Greece striker Georgios Samaras said. "We did very well defensively, but the will we had was the main thing. That stopped them from scoring goals." The Greeks took the lead just before the halftime whistle when captain Giorgos Karagounis sent a low shot under Russia goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev.

"The moments are pure magic for all of us. This is a great night for all Greeks," Karagounis said. "I thank God for living these moments. I cannot describe how I feel. It's so great." Russia coach Dick Advocaat was left ruing his talented team's missed chances. Russia had 25 shots to Greece's five.

"We should have won by a wide margin tonight but we didn't. My compliments to Greece," the Dutchman said after his final match as Russia coach before moving to PSV Eindhoven. "A number of players weren't sharp enough to score." The Greeks could now face Germany in a politically charged quarterfinal that would bring the financial crisis onto the field at Euro 2012. Greece will vote for a new government on Sunday amid a financial meltdown that has threatened its membership in the eurozone. Germany has put pressure on any new government to accept strict austerity measures and stand by promises to international creditors.

On Friday, however, it will be back to football in Gdansk for a shot at the semifinals.

Greece coach Fernando Santos played down the possibility of drawing inspiration from Germany's tough budgetary line with Athens.

"What inspires us is Greece's history. That inspires me a lot," said Santos, who is Portuguese. "The Greeks have great pride and they have earned respect from everyone. History democracy, science, values — it all started in Greece." Karagounis, playing his national record-tying 120th international match, will miss the quarterfinals after getting a yellow card for diving. The Greece captain thought he won a penalty when he made contact with Sergei Ignashevich in the area, but Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson instead booked him.

"That's not fair," Karagounis said. "They should check the video." Russia had been the overwhelming favorite going into the match at the National Stadium, but it was again guilty of squandering chances.
"We did go forward, were very attacking. We played well, but you have to score goals," Advocaat said.

"We did that in first game and despite all the possession today we didn't do that today." Russia became one of the tournament favorites with its 4-1 win over the Czech Republic in their opening match, but then drew with Poland and finally lost to Greece, snapping a 16-match unbeaten run.

Russian players dejectedly tramped off the field immediately after the final whistle, while Greece's euphoric players hugged one another and then celebrated with fans.

"What I'm feeling is overwhelming. I think we did deserve more, but it didn't happen," Malafeev said.

"To concede that goal just before halftime was an awful feeling." The mood in Athens was quite different.

Thousands poured into Omonia square in central Athens waving Greek flags, lighting flares and setting off firecrackers amid the din of hundreds of honking cars.

"A little more respect for Greece please," reveler Anestis Krilekoutis said.

"Greeks have heart and they show it when things get tough, we pull together in times of crisis," said 29-year-old Vasilis Papaspyliotopoulos, standing amid the crowd with the Greek flag draped across his shoulders.

Revelers broke into chants of "bring on the Germans", relishing the prospect of meeting the country footing most of the bill for their multibillion-euro bailout, and being their most outspoken critic — in a quarterfinal showdown with political connotations.

"It's a result that shows our country is strong," said Stavros Helmis, 26. "Sport may not be the most serious thing, but it lifts our spirits."

June/17/2012

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READER COMMENTS

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JOHN HAZAKIS

6/18/2012 7:26:35 PM

Here is what a fix looks like: If Spain and Croatia draw 2-2 there is nothing Italy can do!! Just like 2004 when Sweden and Denmark drew 2-2 which left Italy out

Murat

6/17/2012 10:23:46 PM

Good job guys.

JOHN HAZAKIS

6/17/2012 7:51:04 PM

kemal H Fix? A draw would not have allowed Greece to advance. Greece needed a win

Another View

6/17/2012 6:24:01 PM

Lol! Kemal finds Greek football sobering he was watching it! I know, i know! he was watching expecting to rejoice in its defeat. So many have hoped for Greece to sink in sport and elsewhere. Greece is not Brazil in sport and it is no Germany economy wise. Greece Is Greece like it or not! It has survived centuries and will survive many more whether the likes of Kemal like it or not

Vangelis Denaxas

6/17/2012 4:54:49 PM

Kenan Atagun I didn't say that I like the way we play. But at the same time I have to answer to some rather provocative persons like this Kemal H. or whatever, who even if Greece was a really super football team on the planet, would find a way to hit and insult us. As for your 4-1 victory back then, congratulations you played very well.

kerem atan

6/17/2012 3:16:02 PM

vangelis, seriously do u like the way greek national team plays?after russia scored , greece begun to defend with ten men.their football style doesnt appeal to most of the people all over the world .u shouldnt underestimate Turkish team whilst they thrashed greece 4-1 in athens on your independence day.

Vangelis Denaxas

6/17/2012 3:14:09 PM

Kemal H. Why the Russians would wish to help us, when they owed us nothing and they were looking forward just to pass and if possible to be first in the group. What you claim is totally absurd. In fact the Polish were those who wished us to beat the Russians, no matter if they lost from Czechs at the end. As for our football is not sth important but this still changes nothing concerning that we passed to the Euro and you didn't

DutchTurk JANICAR

6/17/2012 2:43:05 PM

Karagün(is) got a scholarship at the Theater Academy of Drama. I would have seen a good playing Russia further in this competition, than the defense oriented Greece. But all respect for Samaras, he worked like a horse, rest of the team has limited capabilities, not EC 1/4 final worthy.

kemal H

6/17/2012 2:22:18 PM

@ Vangelis,Watching BBC sport, the commentator noted the Greek team was the worst team in the competition. I completely agree with his description and analysis of a group of Greeks parading as footballer's who pack all their eleven players around their goal mouth for the full 90 minutes, then try to pass it of as football. Greek football is dull and downright boring. Turks play a more adventurous exciting attacking football that sometimes costs them the match and their qualification suffer.

kemal H

6/17/2012 2:02:45 PM

@ Vangelis, i was under the impression that the HDN was a forum where anyone can express an opinion. What has Turkey not qualifying got to do with the Russians trying to do their Greek friends a favour.. The Polish are hated by the Russians and its not a ridiculous notion that the Russians played for a draw, but their plan blew up in their cheating faces. Believe me I cheered the Greek win, because in the last eight you will get a team that is going to give you a very harsh Footblall lesson.
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