Fernando Santos’s team remained undefeated in qualification, a series of narrow victories helping them finish first in their group as they target a repeat of their shock 2004 success
ATHENS: Giorgos Karagounis knows what it is like to be part of a miracle, when Greece overcame long odds and doubtful pundits to win the 2004 European championships in Portugal.
Now 35, the compact Panathinaikos midfielder is hoping for an unprecedented repeat of that success in Poland and Ukraine — or at least a good run in the tournament to give some cheer to a nation in a deep political and financial crisis.
“Certainly it is not easy and such repetitions do not happen often. Even countries with great potential have failed to win a second Euro in such a short time,” he said in emailed comments to AFP.
“Even more so if you consider that here the infrastructure as well as the domestic league are not the best. But we have faith and passion on the team and this overrides any disadvantages.”
With 115 caps for Greece, second only to Euro 2004 captain Theodoros Zagorakis, Karagounis is used more sparingly now by Greece coach Fernando Santos but is still seen as the spark that can inspire the team as well as younger generation of players.
Karagounis is hoping that even with a change in manager since “King” Otto Rehhagel, Greece still has the ability to make an impact on the tournament and build on their unbeaten record in qualifying, when they finished top of their group.
“The team spirit which distinguishes us as well is the faith in the team and in ourselves with the belief that we can achieve something good,” he explained.
“Also unique is our passion for achievement while wearing the national emblem and for representing our country, something that makes us perform our best and to give it all in order to qualify for the next round.”
Karagounis says defending champions Spain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands will be the teams to watch but warned that surprise package Greece could not be written off.
Greece: Group A
At a glance
Fernando Santos’s team were unbeaten in qualifying, owing much of their success to narrow wins. Those were a familiar feature during their stunning Euro 2004 success, and an emphasis on team spirit to compensate for the shortage of star names remains an overriding characteristic. Before Portugal, Greece had participated in two major tournaments; this marks their third consecutive UEFA European Championship appearance.