Greece pays high price for slow start

Another bad start for Greece at Euro 2012, and this time there

was no way back.

Four days after trailing to a 17th minute goal against Poland

and then battling back to draw 1-1, the Greeks fell 2-0 behind

after just six minutes against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.

This time, it ended with a 2-1 defeat that brought the 2004

champions to the brink of elimination. It was clearly a major blow

for a team that had arrived at the tournament in Poland and Ukraine

with just one defeat in 21 games under coach Fernando Santos.

”We didn’t exist on the pitch for the first 10 minutes,” said

Santos, who has complained that players forget to follow his

tactical instructions and only stick to the plan after a halftime

lecture.

”You can only expect your opponents to exploit your weaknesses

and it was logical for the Czechs to try and hit us at the start,”

he said. ”We had been over the risks with the players but what we

said was not put into practice … We conceded so few goals in

qualification, and already in Poland we have conceded three in two

matches. That’s what happens when you are not careful.”

Petr Jiracek opened the scoring for the Czechs in the third

minute, with a superb pass from Tomas Hubschmann catching Greece

off-guard. Vaclav Pilar made it 2-0 in the sixth, forcing his way

through two experienced Greek players, Vassilis Torosidis and

Costas Katsouranis, to get his knee to a cross from Theodor Gebre

Selassie.

Substitute Fanis Gekas pulled a goal back in the second half but

the lesson was clear for Greece.

Striker Dimitris Salpigidis said the team had to fix the problem

of its poor starts before the Russia game on Saturday – which the

Greeks must win to progress.

”Once again, we didn’t start well and we dropped behind –

that’s something that is hard to explain,” he said. ”For sure,

all the players share some responsibility for what happened,

because the same thing happened in the first game.”

Despite the setback, Greece’s players vowed to fight on.

”We are in a difficult position now,” Gekas said.

”We fought back but could not make it. But everything is open

and everyone can qualify. Obviously the last game is a final for us

and we have to win it.”