|Sunday, 17 June 2012 17:03|
WARSAW: Greece hero Giorgios Karagounis (pic, left) hopes to have made his people smile after scoring the goal that dumped formidable Russia out of Euro 2012 this morning and steered his side into the quarter-finals.
The midfielder's goal in the last seconds of first-half stoppage time of this crucial Group A match was enough to record a historic 1-0 win despite a late fightback from the Russians.
Karagounis, 35 and who is also the skipper, hailed his team's spirit as they went through to the last eight alongside group winners Czech Republic, who beat co-hosts Poland 1-0 in another match.
Both Greece and Russia ended with four points each with the Russians enjoying a better goal difference. However, the Greeks advanced to the knock-out stages on Uefa's head-to-head ruling rather than goal difference if two teams are tied on points.
"We didn't have to prove anything to the people," said Karagounis, who was making his 120th appearance for Greece. "We have achieved results in our history that the other nations probably wouldn't have.
"We knew that we would play against strong opponents but we showed our character and our qualities.
"Our fans were really fantastic. We just wanted to make the Greek people happy today.
"I can compare this qualification for the quarter-finals with the glory in Portugal eight years ago (when Greece emerged champions). I hope that the Greeks have smiles on their faces tonight."
Karagounis, however, will not play a part in the quarter-finals as he has to serve a suspension after receiving his second yellow card this morning for 'diving'
"I was booked for no reason. It was 100 percent a penalty," he claimed.
To be fair, it was a debatable but referee Jonas Eriksson felt that it was a dive and this somehow spoiled Karagounis' party a bit.
It was a bittersweet outing for him.