Greece beats Russia 1-0 to earn quarterfinal spot

Greece’s national football team restored some pride to a

crisis-hit nation.

The team’s 1-0 win over Russia at the European Championship on

Saturday touched off a wave of celebrations by fans back home who

have been battered by an ongoing financial crisis and years of

austerity. The win put Greece in the quarterfinals and eliminated

the Russians.

”We are proud that we gave the people back home some joy and a

break from their problems – even for a short while,” Greece

striker Georgios Samaras said. ”We did very well defensively, but

the will we had was the main thing. That stopped them from scoring

goals.”

The Greeks took the lead just before the halftime whistle when

captain Giorgos Karagounis sent a low shot under Russia goalkeeper

Vyacheslav Malafeev.

”The moments are pure magic for all of us. This is a great

night for all Greeks,” Karagounis said. ”I thank God for living

these moments. I cannot describe how I feel. It’s so great.”

Russia coach Dick Advocaat was left ruing his talented team’s

missed chances. Russia had 25 shots to Greece’s five.

”We should have won by a wide margin tonight but we didn’t. My

compliments to Greece,” the Dutchman said after his final match as

Russia coach before moving to PSV Eindhoven. ”A number of players

weren’t sharp enough to score.”

The Greeks could now face Germany in a politically charged

quarterfinal that would bring the financial crisis onto the field

at Euro 2012. Greece will vote for a new government on Sunday amid

a financial meltdown that has threatened its membership in the

eurozone. Germany has put pressure on any new government to accept

strict austerity measures and stand by promises to international

creditors.

On Friday, however, it will be back to football in Gdansk for a

shot at the semifinals.

Greece coach Fernando Santos played down the possibility of

drawing inspiration from Germany’s tough budgetary line with

Athens.

”What inspires us is Greece’s history. That inspires me a

lot,” said Santos, who is Portuguese. ”The Greeks have great

pride and they have earned respect from everyone. History

democracy, science, values – it all started in Greece.”

Karagounis, playing his national record-tying 120th

international match, will miss the quarterfinals after getting a

yellow card for diving. The Greece captain thought he won a penalty

when he made contact with Sergei Ignashevich in the area, but

Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson instead booked him.

”That’s not fair,” Karagounis said. ”They should check the

video.”

Russia had been the overwhelming favorite going into the match

at the National Stadium, but it was again guilty of squandering

chances.

”We did go forward, were very attacking. We played well, but

you have to score goals,” Advocaat said. ”We did that in first

game and despite all the possession today we didn’t do that

today.”

Russia became one of the tournament favorites with its 4-1 win

over the Czech Republic in their opening match, but then drew with

Poland and finally lost to Greece, snapping a 16-match unbeaten

run.

Russian players dejectedly tramped off the field immediately

after the final whistle, while Greece’s euphoric players hugged one

another and then celebrated with fans.

”What I’m feeling is overwhelming. I think we did deserve more,

but it didn’t happen,” Malafeev said. ”To concede that goal just

before halftime was an awful feeling.”

The mood in Athens was quite different.

Thousands poured into Omonia square in central Athens waving

Greek flags, lighting flares and setting off firecrackers amid the

din of hundreds of honking cars.

”A little more respect for Greece please,” reveler Anestis

Krilekoutis said.

Lineups:

Russia: Vyacheslav Malafeev, Alexander Anyukov (Marat Izmailov,

81), Alexei Berezutski, Sergei Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov, Roman

Shirokov, Igor Denisov, Denis Glushakov (Pavel Pogrebnyak, 72),

Andrei Arshavin, Alexander Kerzhakov (Roman Pavlyuchenko, 46), Alan

Dzagoyev.

Greece: Michalis Sifakis, Giorgos Tzavelas, Sokratis

Papastathopoulos, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Vassilis Torosidis,

Yiannis Maniatis, Costas Katsouranis, Georgios Samaras, Giorgos

Karagounis (Grigoris Makos, 67), Dimitriys Salpigidis (Sotiris

Ninis, 83), Fanis Gekas (Jose Holebas, 64).