WARSAW: Having failed to pull off a repeat of their shock victory in the opening match of Euro 2004, a tournament they went on to win, Greece aim to prove the omens wrong at this year’s edition of the tournament.
After drawing 1-1 with Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland in Warsaw yesterday, they pledged to come out fighting against the Czech Republic when they meet on Tuesday in the southwestern Polish city of Wroclaw.
“We never give up, and because we never give up, we don’t like to lose games. And that’s something you cannot buy or find. It’s all about the mentality in the dressing room,” said Celtic striker Giorgos Samaras.
Finding themselves 1-0 down to the Poles after just 17 minutes, and then a man down by half-time after defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos’ second bookable offence, they turned the game round after half-time.
“We have great faith in ourselves and great spirit in the team. When we went to the dressing room, we said that we can take something positive from the game,” said Samaras.
“I think we had a great second half. We had a chance to win the game as well. But that’s football. I think everyone is happy with the draw and now we want to rest for the next two or three days and then go and be positive again at the next game.”
The Greeks levelled the score in the 51st minute after half-time substitute Dimitris Salpingidis took advantage of a defensive error.
Things got even better for the Greeks when with just over 20 minutes remaining Poland first choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was himself sent off for bringing down Salpingidis in the box.
Greece would have made it 2-1 but for Poland’s substitute goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton.
Hastily gloved up he saved Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis’s penalty and denied the 35-year-old a repeat of his having scored in the opening match of Euro 2004.
Despite his players’ second half heroics, Greece coach Fernando Santos was far from ecstatic, noting that his side “didn’t do a great job in the first 20 minutes”.
“I said we were going for a win so I am not satisfied,” he said. “However, I am very proud of my players.”
He also noted that he had had to change tactics after the sending off, which he questioned, while underlining he respected the decision by Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo.
“It made it very difficult for us. Normally we play a more attack minded game but we had to change our tactics after the player was sent off.”
Ironically, it was the need for a tactical shift that led Santos to send on Salpingidis at half-time, paying dividends fast.