Qualifying for the Euro 2012 quarter-finals may have as sweet a flavour as winning the tournament eight years ago for Greek veteran Giorgos Karagounis, but the after-taste is bitter as he faces having to sit out the game.
The 35-year-old put his country ahead seconds before the end of the first half of their crunch match with hot favourites Russia on Saturday, sending their fans wild both in Warsaw’s National Stadium and back in their crisis-ravaged homeland.
“When the team left Greece, we all said with one voice that we will give our all. And we’d give our all in any event, let alone now, when our compatriots aren’t having the best time,” said Karagounis.
Along with fellow midfielder Kostas Katsouranis and goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias, who missed the Russia game due to a hamstring injury, Karagounis is one of a trio who were in the squad at Euro 2004.
At that tournament, the unheralded Greeks found glory by beating favourites and hosts Portugal in the opening match and again in the final.
“This saga compares with what happened in Portugal. We managed to qualify against all odds.
That’s why the value of this qualification is great,” said Karagounis.
However, already carrying a yellow card from the Greeks’ 2-1 defeat by the Czech Republic he was booked in the 61st minute for contesting Swedish Jonas Eriksson’s refusal to award a penalty when he was brought down in the box.
As a result, he will have to sit out Greece’s quarter-final next Friday in Gdansk.
Already annoyed over disallowed goals against the Czechs, Karagounis bemoaned his fate and said his team had been hard done by against Russia too.
“Maybe UEFA has to check the video of the game. This is not fair. All referee calls were against our team,” he said.
Greece’s Portuguese coach Fernando Santos is already considering his options for the quarter-final, given that his talismanic captain is set to be out of action.
“If Karagounis can’t play in the next match, I am the coach so it’s up to me to find a solution,” Santos said.