Greece relishes underdog role against Russia

Greece players are relishing the role of underdog against Russia

in their final group game at Euro 2012 and believe they can pull

off an upset on Saturday.

Bottom of Group A after a draw with Poland and a defeat by the

Czech Republic, Greece now has to beat group leader Russia to

qualify.

It’s not a task that fazes the players.

”It’s very good to be the outsider and we have to advantage of

this,” said striker Costas Mitroglou, who played the last 20

minutes against the Czechs, before a training session on

Thursday.

”We have to go in strong from the first minute, do what the

coach says and, with a bit of luck, we’ll get the win.”

Greek players have often been inspired by being the outsiders,

having stunned the football world eight years ago to win the

European Championship.

Like Mitroglou, midfielder Costas Fortounis believes that Greece

can turn a difficult situation to their advantage.

”This is a final for us and I think the pressure of this game

will make all the boys give their best and we’ll get the

qualification (for the quarterfinals),” the 19-year-old Fortounis

said.

However, Russia was the only team to beat Greece in that 2004

tournament and it defeated them again at Euro 2008.

Greece will also have to cope with two absentees on

Saturday.

Central defender Avraam Papadopoulos and first-choice goalkeeper

Costas Chalkias will both miss the match due to injury, but valued

defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos will return from suspension.

Coach Fernando Santos has publicly complained that his players

lost concentration at the start of their first two matches. Greece

conceded in the 17th minute against Poland in a tournament opener

that ended 1-1, and allowed the Czechs to score twice in the first

six minutes before that game ended 2-1.

Greece had trouble containing fast Polish and Czech wingers,

while Santos’ decision to start with three strikers in each game

has so far failed to produce a major threat to opponents.

Russia hammered the Czech Republic 4-1 before then being held

1-1 by co-host Poland – a result that gave Fortounis hope of an

upset on Saturday.

”We’ve seen both of Russia’s games. For sure, they weren’t as

strong in the second game as the first,” Fortounis said. ”I do

think our chances to go through are very good.”