Late rally puts 2004 champ Greece into Euro 2012

Greece reached its third straight European Championship on

Tuesday after substitute Giorgos Fotakis and veteran Angelos

Charisteas scored late goals to secure a 2-1 win over Georgia in

their final qualifier.

Fotakis blasted an equalizer past Georgia goalkeeper Nukri

Revishvili from outside the area in the 79th minute and Charisteas

added the winner six minutes later.

The 2004 champions won Group F ahead with 24 points, two better

than Croatia which beat Latvia 2-0 to secure at least a spot in

next month’s playoff. A draw would have been enough to put Greece

through to next year’s tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

Greece ensured its place despite David Targamadze putting the

Georgians ahead after 19 minutes at the Mikheil Meskhi stadium. The

Georgia striker’s pinpoint free kick bounced past Greek goalkeeper

Alexandros Tzorvas into goal.

The Greeks, missing five key players through injury and

suspensions, lacked imagination and were unable to dent Georgia’s

defense with defender Nikos Spyropoulos clearing off the line in

the 58th.

”We nearly saw 18 months of hard work slip away so it was a big

deal for us to come back and win,” Greece midfielder Kostas

Katsouranis said.

The game turned in Greece’s favor when the hosts lost Targamadze

to injury in the second half. Coach Temuri Ketsbaia had already

made all three substitutions to leave his team struggling with 10

men for the last 20 minutes.

”It was a strange game, and luck was on our side,” said Greece

coach Fernando Santos, whose unbeaten run since taking over after

last year’s World Cup reached 16 games. ”But overall, I think we

deserved to qualify.”

Georgia coach Temuri Ketsbaia believed his team would have come

at least come away with points if Targamadze hadn’t exited.

”We should have got something more out of this game,” Ketsbaia

said. ”It’s disappointing for us, but Greece deserved to qualify.

They beat Croatia, who were the favorites, so they didn’t win the

group by luck.”

Lineups:

Georgia: Nukri Revishvili, Shota Grigalashvili (Aleksander

Iashvili, 51), Guram Kashia, Kakha Kaladze, Aleksandr

Amisulashvili, Zurab Khizanishvili, Otar Martsvaladze, Jaba Kankava

(Ucha Lobzhanidze, 41), Levan Mchedlidze (Alexander Gurili, 66),

Levan Kobiashvili, David Targamadze.

Greece: Alexandros Tzorvas, Nikos Spyropoulos, Alexandros

Tziolis (Giorgos Fotakis, 56), Angelos Charisteas, Giorgos

Karagounis, Loukas Vyntra, Dimitris Salpingidis (Stephanos

Athanasiadis, 68), Fanis Gekas (Panagiotis Kone, 90), Sokratis

Papastathopoulos, Costas Katsouranis, Kyriakos Papadopoulos.