Euro 2012: ‘Captain K’ eyes record for Greece
It’s a six-second sequence Greeks remember well: Paulo Ferreira
gives the ball away, Giorgos Karagounis pushes forward, sends in a
shot from outside the area, and Ricardo is beaten.
Only seven minutes into the opening match of the 2004 European
Championship, Greece led host Portugal 1-0.
That fabled opening goal against launched Greece’s stunning
championship run – making Karagounis a crowd favorite for life.
Eight years later heading into Euro 2012, the skillful
midfielder is the team’s captain and he is approaching an all-time
appearance record of 120 matches set by 2004 teammate Theo
”It’s a real pleasure to play in the European Championship.
We’re going there to enjoy it, because our aim was to make it
there,” Karagounis said at a recent exhibition of national team
memorabilia. ”But we’re not treating this as a holiday. We’re a
good team, we have ambition, and we’ll take our chances. If we are
clear of (injury) problems we should have some good games.”
Karagounis made his debut at 22 in a friendly against El
Salvador and has been one of Greece’s most consistently selected
players through his 10 years at Panathinaikos and four at Inter
Milan and Benfica, scoring eight international goals and making 115
appearances for his country.
Good for team spirit, setting up strikers and taking dead-ball
chances, he earned a reputation as a tireless playmaker,
exemplifying the ethic instilled by 2004 coach Otto Rehhagel.
Commentators called him ”the Dude” because of his good nature,
though critics note he rarely stays on his feet when challenged for
In Poland and Ukraine, Karagounis could level Zagorakis’ record
in the group stage because Greece has two warm-up matches lined up
this month against Slovenia and Armenia.
Most of the 2004 squad has retired, but the 35-year-old
Karagounis is showing little sign of slowing down, his hard-work
ethic and appeal to younger players having won favor with coach
He played in all 10 of Greece’s European qualifiers, seven of
them for the full 90 minutes, as Greece remained unbeaten and
topped its group. At Euro 2012, the Greeks will face Russia, the
Czech Republic and co-host Poland in the opening round.
Like in 2004, the Greeks will open against the hosts.
”There will be 50,000 Poles watching that game … so it won’t
be easy,” Karagounis said. ”But we’ll hopefully have fans too and
we’ve proved we can take on any opponent. There are no easy teams.
Whoever we’re up against, we’ll take them on.”