Group A
Greece 1-0 Russia



The Greek skipper shot low at the end of the first half to score the game's only goal as Greece knock Russia out whilst going through



By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from the National Stadium, Warsaw 

Greece pulled off another great shock at the European championship finals by booking their place in the quarter-finals with a surprise 1-0 victory against overriding favourites Russia, who were knocked out of the tournament in the process.

The less-fancied Greeks, who collected just one point from their first two group games, were outplayed for much of the first half but somehow went into the break ahead as captain marvel Giorgos Karagounis drilled a low effort underneath Russian goalkeeper Malafeev deep into first-half stoppage time. The Greece skipper was clearly tripped by Ignashevich in the second half and was aggreived when he was shown a yellow card by the referee for diving while the Russians continued to boss the game but the 2008 semi-finalists extraordinarily leave the competition after the Czech Republic managed to come out on top in a tight match to overcome Poland in Wroclaw to claim top spot while the co-hosts finished bottom of Group A.

Three changes were made to the Greece team, which were hopeless sentenced to a 2-1 defeat against the Czechs last time out which all but ended their chances on paper of progressing, with Sokratis Papastathopoulos returning from a one-game ban following his sending off in the opening 1-1 draw with Poland while Tzevallas was brought in for his sixth cap with Jose Holebas dropped from left-back. Theofanis Gekas, who impressed and scored in the previous game, started while third-choice goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis replaced Kostas Chalkias after the 38-year old injured his hamstring during the loss in matchday two.

Russia were forced into one alteration from their midweek 1-1 draw against the Poles as midfielder Denis Glushakov took the place of the unwell Konstantin Zyryanov. Alexsandr Kokorin was also unavailable to boss Dick Advocaat, who now leaves to manage PSV Eindhoven, after picking up a hamstring injury during yesterday's training session ruling him out of action for several months. Zenit St Petersburg's Alexander Kerzhakov again kept his place in the team ahead of Lokomotiv Moscow's Roman Pavlyuchenko in attack.

Fernando Santos' men- who underwent a seventeen match unbeaten streak at the beginning of his Greece reign- began the day bottom of the group knowing that they needed three points to infuse their qualification hopes while preferably requiring Poland to draw with the Czech Republic. It was a backs-to-the-wall first half display although more free-flowing football entered their gameplan in the second period as they take great satisfaction in becoming the first team to come out on top against Russia since February 2011.



The win for Greece means that it is their first victory at the European championship finals since beating Portugal in the Euro 2004 final.


It was an encouraging start from the Greeks who had managed to see out the first six minutes without leaking a goal which they had done twice against Czech Republic on Tuesday while they could have gone infront when Karagounis' corner was flapped by an unsure Malafeev after a dangerous near-post flick by Aris Salonika forward Theofanis Gekas while Torosidis tried to help a shot back into the box which was kicked away by Glushakov.

All in all it was a lowly start after a fairly low-key build-up to the match as Andrey Arshavin had a chance to stab at goal from Dzagoev's cross from close range after getting infront of Torosidis moreover Dzagoev ballooned harmlessly over the bar a minute later from Anyukov's pullback. Kerzhakov came with inches away of finding the net which would have been something special from him however he cut across his right-footed half volley as the snapshot moved away from goal as the Russians were seeing more of the Greek goalframe in the early minutes.

Greece resorted to long punts pumped forward seeking out the three forward players while set-pieces were also their principal method of scoring goals. Russia looked threatening as both teams tried to avoid the knock-out blow with Advocaat's men getting into an incisive rhythm, clicking into their stride but couldn't find the missing piece to the jigsaw. The fans began to lift the decibel level as the players turned up the heat with Roman Shirokov seeing a cracking effort from distance take a sizeable chunk of Papastathopolous and behind for a corner. The Greeks looked toothless in attack as they motored forward sporadically in the opening 45 minutes while their defending became a little last-ditch as the half wore on with their opponents patiently strutting their stuff and strolling with ease however not working Greece's Michalis Sifakis in goal.

They ended the half with Kerzhakov taking an airshot having completely missed the ball when looking to connect with a drifted pass into his path from Denisov in a decent shooting position while Anzhi Machkahala left-back Yuri Zhirkov, who left Chelsea last summer, tried a shot after a well-worked corner wrapping his foot around the ball although his effort bent narrowly over after making room for it. The two teams were meeting in the group stages of the Euros for the third time in a row with Russia prevailing in the other two but Greece were avidly spoiling the script.  



Russia lost for the first time in seventeen games while conceded just their fifth goal in the last fourteen matches.


It was smash and grab from the Greeks, who had been second best up until now, as a bolt from the blue from skipper Karagounis put the underdogs into an unlikely lead at half-time in the last kick of the half. The Panathinaikos midfielder amassed 120 caps on the night equalling a country record and capped it with a memorable moment by capitalising on the misreading of a quickly-taken throw by Russia's Zhirkov who nodded it straight into the road of Giorgos Karagounis who arrowed a right-footer low underneath Malafeev to profit on the lapse in concentration to leave the Russia supporters shellshocked.

The focus for Greece was to prioritise on protecting the slender lead they had with an ultra defensive mode adopted initially with Russia looking for the cutting edge to unlock the Greek backline by committing more men forward while pushing the full-backs beyond the halfway line. Russia- who came from behind to draw 1-1 in the sides' last meeting a year ago in a friendly in Athens- dominated with Igor Denisov trying his luck from distance having monitored the situation from twenty-five yards but missed the target. Substitute Jose Holebas, at the opposite end, smacked the post with a sublime free-kick over the wall for Greece which almost doubled their grasp on the game.

However, Fernando Santos' men were not sitting on their laurels with Torosidis finding a cross which was desperately hacked behind by Anyukov virtually next to the goalline as a partial opening almost occurred when searching for Gekas. A contentious moment arose when a cast-iron penalty was turned down by Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson on the hour mark when Karagounis skipped away from two challenges into the penalty area where he was tripped by Sergei Ignashevich but was booked for alleged diving. The 34-year old, who missed a penalty against Poland at the beginning of Euro 2012, was absolutely flabbergasted by the referee's call with Santos falling to his knees in utter disbelief in the technical area in what could have been crucial in a match with fine margins.

Dick Advocaat brought on Fulham's Pavel Pogrebyniak and Sporting Lisbon's Izmailov for Anyukov and Glushakov with two attacking substitutions with news filtering through that Petr Jiracek had opened the scoring for Czech Republic in the other fixture which left them staring down the barrel of leaving the tournament. It was now or never for the Russians who had the last throw of the dice- CSKA Moscow's Alan Dzagoev who scored three goals in the first two matches while netting only five for his club last season glanced a header wide after Arshavin got the beating of Maniatis to fizz in a cross as it was so near yet so far.

The Greeks may have been camped in their own half in the final ten minutes in particular but they were able to repel the Russians who had red shirts packed inside the opposition penalty area. A bizarre moment happened when Costas Katsouranis suffered a back complaint, was taken off on a stretcher in order to speed up the restart of the match while jumping off the stretcher immediately after reaching the sidelines to fake a limp when waiting to return to the action. It was unexpected but Greece, who defied the odds to win Euro 2004, showed they had enough after all to get through the least challenging of the four tournament groups as Russia walked out of their rivals' territory to make the short journey home despite being table-toppers over both previous matchdays. The Greeks will play winners of Group B which are likely to be Germany, currently with six points with one game left.



ANALYSIS:  Greece 1-0 Russia
Adam Higgins- Chief Football Editor reporting from Warsaw

"One of the greatest ever shocks that you could imagine ever in major international tournament football- you cannot have imagined after matchday two that the Greeks could have possibly put themselves in a position to qualify after the defeat to Czech Republic when their defence was here, there and everywhere. They were not in the game in an attacking sense at all in the first period but even though they turned a little more defensive after scoring, they still had probably the better of the chances and the penalty claim as well. In stark contrast, Russia were in such a commanding situation after their 4-1 win over the Czechs in their first match while you felt they still had more than enough to go through despite a 1-1 draw with Poland in the second game. Even still, all they needed was a point- an equaliser, something from somewhere. Their big game players didn't show up tonight when they were needed. It is simply unbelievable but the Greeks don't follow the script, they love being the underdogs and have put a massive cat upon the pigeons." 





Saturday 16th June                  UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine                Group A                 National Stadium, Warsaw

Greece 1-0 Russia                                           KO 7:45pm                   Live on BBC3/HD                  (HT 1-0)

Karagounis 45+3






13 Michalis Sifakis-  6.5/10  Didn't have a great deal to do but not many goalkeepers get a clean sheet against Russia so that is an achievement in itself. A mainly off target day for the opponents.

15 Vassilis Torosidis-  7/10  Good game for him at right-back, got the balance right between going forward and tracking back- his quick thinking with the throw-in led to the goal. 5 Kyriakos Papadopoulos-  7.5/10  A quality match for the young man who is looking like a certain fit to the international stage when his chance has emerged in the team. Several brave headers and a generally solid performance.

19 Sokratis Papastathopoulos-  7/10  Returned from suspension and at least didn't give away many fouls worthy of getting a booking. He had a lot of last-ditch defending to do making some crucial blocks and interceptions.

3 Giorgos Tzavellas-  6/10  Rarely crossed the half-way line, defended reasonably well in the second half but he didn't get tight enough to the likes of Arshavin and Dzagoev quick enough allowing these top-quality players time and space on the ball.

10 Giorgos Karagounis (C)-  7.5/10  Was involved in everything good for Greece in the game, covered a lot of ground despite the lack of club football. Scored their goal and was denied a penalty kick in second half.

2 Yiannis Maniatis-  5.5/10  Can barely remember his name being mentioned, stayed predominantly in the middle of the park rarely moving and despite this, couldn't do his job of protecting the back four as thoroughly as Fernando Santos wanted.

21 Costas Katsouranis-  8/10  Had a really good match overall- didn't let the likes of Shirokov or Denisov take control and his passing was fabulous in the second half. Helped out in defence late on- but will be glad to have returned to the midfield.

14 Dimitris Salpingidis-  6/10  Couldn't make a sufficient impact in the game barely receiving the ball while not using it to the best effect.

17 Theofanis Gekas-  6/10  Came off after 64 minutes having done very little to prove his place in the line-up- barely got a chance to get a feel of the ball or a shot or goalscoring opportunity when on the field.

7 Georgios Samaras-  7.5/10  Tried his best to hold the ball up and was a decent outlet for Greece but his first touch was a little poor. Got past a couple of defenders with his clever footwork. His best match of the three so far.

Substitutes bench:-
1 Chalkias (GK), 12 Tzorvas (GK), 4 Malezas, 20 Holebas, 6 Makos, 16 Fotakis, 18 Ninis, 22 Fortounis, 23 Ioannis, 9 Liberopoulos, 11 Mitroglou.


Subs used: 

Holebas (for Gekas-  64 mins)-  4/10  The left-back was introduced as a defensive change to give extra help on the flank to nullify the threat of Arshavin who looked better in second half.

Makos (for Karagounis-  66 mins)-  2.5/10  Helped the Greeks to protect the lead which was the main reason for his introduction- played a few balls for the forwards to chase on to.

Ninis (for Salpingidis-  82 mins)-  1.5/10  The creative spark in the Greek squad but came on far too late to make any sort of impact- brought on to swap places with the tiring Salpingidis.


Booked:       Karagounis (60), Holebas (90+3)


Sent-off:         None






16 Vyacheslav Malafeev-  7/10  Similarly to his counterpart, he wasn't overly employed throughout the match with Greece having less shots than Russia. No real saves to make at all.

2 Aleksandr Anyukov-  6/10  Sustained nasty knock to the head in the first half- eventually taken off in order for an extra forward to come on. Ventured forward a lot from right-back while he was caught out by Samaras once or twice.

4 Sergei Ignashevich-  6.5/10  Genuinely poor, strode forward and had a chance in first half to shoot but dragged hopelessly wide by miles. Tripped Karagounis for what should have been a penalty, slipped more than once and looked uncomfortable.

12 Aleksei Berezutski-  7/10  Was marginally better than his central defence partner but wasn't much better either. He was a threat at corners at the other end and in defence didn't let Gekas, Salpingidis and Samaras have a sniff.

5 Yuri Zhirkov-  6/10  Shown a yellow card for cynically bringing down Salpingidis, made a horrible mistake for the Karagounis goal while had a shot in first half off target. Saying that he had a game to forget would be an understatement.

6 Roman Shirokov-  6.5/10  Got hopelessly outran in the second half by Karagounis and Katsouranis with several passes going astray and his confidence draining slowly- normally so composed in possession, had no effect.

7 Igor Denisov-  7/10  Was the man who offered himself in the middle of park and allowed the Russians to impose their usual attacking rhythm and movement in terms of rapid offensive play. Found space a lot and he used it rather well.

22 Denis Glushakov-  6.5/10  Came into team but didn't really catch the eye- did make a few passes in the first half but they were mainly to someone within a few yards of him.

17 Alan Dzagoev-  6/10  Had a poor night not showing his usual attacking abilities nor adding a goal which he has done in the tournament thus far. Frustrations got the better of him when booked for a wild tackle on Holebas.

11 Alexander Kerzhakov-  6/10  Another off target evening in terms of his shooting and this time he didn't last longer than half-time- you cannot legislate for the poor performances he has had.

10 Andrey Arshavin (C)-  6.5/10  He didn't get involved in the match while kept running into Greece defenders after taking heavy touches- his crossing wasn't up to scratch- a bad day at the office for him and his team.

Substitutes bench:-

1 Akinfeev (GK), 13 Shunin (GK), 3 Sharonov, 19 Granat, 21 Nabakin, 9 Izmailov, 15 Kombarov, 23 Shemshov, 14 Pavlyuchenko, 20 Pogrebyniak


Subs used:

Pavlyuchenko (for Kerzhakov-  45 mins)-  4.5/10  Came on at the interval hoping to help the Russians get back into the game but couldn't find an equaliser or indeed create any sort of chance.

Pogrebyniak (for Glushakov-  71 mins)-  3/10  Booked for deliberate handball late on but a little more enthusiastic putting himself about- shame he hasn't had more playing time at this tournament.

Izmailov (for Anyukov-  80 mins)-  2/10  Never really got a touch of the ball as the Greeks kept him quiet and made sure he couldn't impose himself on the match.


Booked:      Anyukov (64), Zhirkov (68), Dzagoev (71), 
               Pogrebyniak (90+2)


Sent-off:        None



My Man of the Match:    Giorgos Karagounis (Greece)- Rating 8/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:    Yiannis Maniatis (Greece)- Rating 5.5/10 



Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)- 6/10
Attendance: 58,145



Match Facts:

Possession: Greece- 40%                 Russia- 60%

Shots at goal: Greece- 7                   Russia- 28

Shots on target: Greece- 2                  Russia- 13

Shots off target: Greece- 5                  Russia- 15

Corners: Greece- 5                      Russia- 12

Fouls: Greece- 5                      Russia- 10

Offsides: Greece- 1                     Russia- 0

Assists: Greece- 1 (Torosidis)                    Russia- 0






Greece head coach Fernando Santos:  "We are very happy, very satisfied. We dedicate this victory to Avraam (Papadopoulos), the injured player not with us right now, and to all Greeks. It was all about our focus – it was our focus and concentration that decided the result. We should have played our previous matches with the same concentration. We finally found this ingredient which is characteristic of our team, we had a clear plan, we had to be disciplined and we managed to see it through. From the first moment we were focused, we didn't allow them opportunities to exploit their strengths. I would like to congratulate all the players for all their efforts – this match was very difficult, they gave everything, if not more, to get us through. I have told the players that I completely trust them. Whenever Greece have been in a difficult position and needed a win, as against Croatia in qualifying, this is when the character of the team, of the players, emerges, and the response was fantastic. Russia are a very strong team but I'd noticed they need a lot of space, especially in the final third, to create chances so the first thing we wanted to do was concentrate on our own half, and not let them exploit their ability there."

Russia head coach Dick Advocaat:  "We played quite well, we went forward and the other team just defended. It's true we conceded a goal but in the first half we played well. In the second half against a team like Greece, it was hard to play. They were leading at half-time and they are just masters at doing what they did today. Up front we maybe didn't have that sharpness to get a goal but in the first half they went forward once. When you concede a goal you have 45 minutes to put it right, it just didn't happen today – it is hard to say why. The full-backs went up, we had three players up front, but you need the sharpness, and it just didn't work out. We tried to control the game, we tried to decide the game, we probably had the ball for 44 minutes (in the first half). Even though we lost, we played a brilliant first half, then they got the goal and it's a totally different story. We played well, but you need to score goals. That's what we did in the first game, but despite all the possession, today that's what we didn't do. I worked very hard with my staff to have a very good team. We were undefeated in 16 games and were not fortunate today; we should have won it but that's football and congratulations to Greece." 


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