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.''