June 16, 2012
Greeks write an epic, not a tragedy
By Morris Dalla Costa, QMI Agency
WARSAW, POLAND - What transpired in Group A at Euro 2012 Saturday couldn’t be scripted because no one would believe it could happen.
Russia couldn’t believe it could happen.
It wasn’t quite the first shall be last and the last shall be first but it comes pretty darn close.
Greece did it again. They came from nowhere to stun group leader Russia 1-0 to finish second in Group A and qualify for the second round.
The Czech Republic, a team that looked dreadful against Russia, defeated tournament co-host Poland 1-0 and wound up winning Group A.
Greece came into the game with only one point needing everything to go its way to advance. Greece had to beat Russia, a team that early in the tournament looked to be one of the best sides.
Then the Greeks had to hope that the Czech Republic would beat or tie Poland.
In the days leading up to the final set of Group A games, the discussion was all about whether Poland or the Czech Republic would join Russia in the next round.
Russia played Saturday as if it they too believed they were already through.
They left the door opened a crack and Greece didn’t hesitate to barge through it.
Never stop running, never stop fighting and never stop working. All Greece needed was a thimbleful of hope. They got it just before the half ended when Giorgos Karagounis scored to give them a 1-0 lead.
Like a starving dog with a pork chop, the Greeks refused to let go of that lead.
The Greeks are used to absorbing pressure and surviving. They know how to defend.
Karagounis’s goal threw all of Group A into a spin. All the teams were aware that another goal scored by any of them would change everything yet again.
But once Petr Jiracek scored for the Czechs in the second half, the Poles were pretty much out of it.
Russia needed a goal to go through.
The Russians turned desperate but the more desperate they became, the sloppier they looked. The sloppier they got, the more organized the Greeks played.
Greece was unlucky not to get a second goal.
With the final whistle there was bedlam on the Greek’s sideline. The Russian’s looked stupefied.
That is the magic of a Euro. The teams are among the best in the world. No team is safe. Even on a last day when things seem unlikely to change, Euro magic usually has something in store.
Look at Group A.
As for the Greeks, they were magnificent in this game. They knew the odds of moving on were against them. They decided no matter what, they weren’t going to make anything easy for anyone.
It’s time they are offered respect for their ability to provide thrills and upsets.
Despite winning Euro 2004, they were never accorded due credit for winning. They were criticized for being too defensive. Many called the win a fluke.
But guts and determination need to be acknowledged.
Most of the news coming from Greece deals with the country’s disastrous financial situation.
But this team offers something different. It plays as if it’s determined to make people forget the country’s financial woes.
It’s a country that can deliver against great odds. It won Euro in 2004. It qualified for Euro in 2008. It was at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and now it can add another chapter to its soccer legacy.
The Czech Republic and Greece will now wait to see who they play in the quarter-finals. It will be one of Group B’s powerhouses—Demark, Germany, Portugal or the Netherlands.
The tendency will be to write off Greece yet again.