Greece dedicate Euro 2012 success to compatriots
Swinging from underdogs to quarter-finalists at Euro 2012 is Greece's way to bring cheer to their austerity-gripped homeland, midfielder Kostas Katsouranis said on Sunday.
"We wanted to give everybody back home something to cheer, to celebrate," Katsouranis told reporters at the team's training base outside the Polish capital Warsaw, a day after their shock 1-0 defeat of favorites Russia.
"Everybody in Greece - even our families, our friends, our brothers, our cousins, everyone -- is having a really hard time," he said.
"The most important thing is that all of us on the team never put ourselves above the team. We represent our country. So we know what we have to do."
Along with captain and fellow midfielder Giorgos Karagounis, suspended for the quarter-final, and goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias, who missed the Russia game due to a hamstring injury, Katsouranis is one of a trio who were in Greece's Euro 2004 winning side.
In the wake of their shock European championship title eight years ago, Greece failed to shine, suggesting it was a flash in the pan.
Drawn in Euro 2012's Group A along with Russia, the Czech Republic and co-hosts Poland, they started their campaign with a 1-1 draw against the Poles then lost 2-1 to the Czechs.
The high-octane Russians had only needed a draw to make the quarter-finals, but Karagounis scored in stoppage time in the first half and Russia could not breach Greece's solid defence.
Katsouranis said the players were still coming to terms with having stormed into the last eight, along with the Czechs, who beat Poland 1-0 the same night to top of the group.
"We can't describe what we feel in words," he said.
"I think the most important thing is that we in a short period of time we achieved the status of being among the eight best teams in Europe, and that's a huge achievement for the Greeks."
Greece already know they will play their quarter-final in the Baltic port of Gdansk next Friday, facing the winners of Group B, which wraps up on Sunday.
The odds favour a clash with Germany, tipped as potential Euro 2012 winners - in a group including Holland, Portugal and Denmark - but Katsouranis said Greece would take that in their stride.
"The next big challenge for us is the next match. We'll see who our next opponents are. We're going to work hard, as always, and we believe in our chances.
"In my opinion, there's no difference who the opponents are, Germany or another team. It's a quarter-final. It's going to be a tough, hard match. We're going to give our best and try to do whatever we can do.
Greece's coach Fernando Santos is Portuguese, raising the tantalising prospect of playing facing his home nation if Portugal advance.
Asked how that would feel, he responded, "I'm a Greek now, I can't understand your question."
Santos, now 57, spent the best part of a decade as a club coach in Greece before taking over the national team in 2010 from German Otto Rehhagel, who had steered them to the title at Euro 2004.
Santos insisted there are no underdogs in a knock-out phase.
"All the matches are going to be difficult. But from now on all the matches are knock-out matches, even if it's 90 minutes or extra time or a penalty shoot-out."
"Everything is possible," he added.
"There's no disputing that Germany is a well known team, a very strong team with exceptional players, and with a very good coach who's worked with the players for years. So there's nothing new about Germany."
Santos bemoaned the loss of the talismanic Karagounis, suspended for earning a yellow card two games in a row. He was sanctioned against Russia for contesting the referee's refusal to award a penalty when he was brought down in the box
"He's our captain, he's experienced and for sure his presence is very important for young players. It's very sad that he won't play, because the card wasn't jusitifed and that's not fair for the whole team," Santos said.
"But I am 100% sure that whoever is going to play is going to do the same job, is going to be effective like Giorgos."
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