Karagounis: This is as good as winning
Published : 17 Jun 2012 07:47:31
Giorgios Karagounis has hailed Greece's against-the-odds qualification for the European Championship quarter-finals as being as good as winning the title in 2004.
Matchwinner Karagounis also dedicated the 1-0 victory over Russia to those suffering in his debt-ridden country and launched a stinging attack on referees at Euro 2012.
Karagounis - one of the heroes of their shock Euro 2004 triumph - said: "Today's saga is something comparable to what happened in Portugal. We are a new team - a renewed team - and we managed to qualify against everything. I really mean that.... We managed to give joy to all Greeks all over the world."
Greece rekindled the spirit of eight years ago on Saturday night to turn Group A on its head and reach the knockout stage. Defeat saw Russia crash out of the tournament nine days after winning their opening game 4-1.
Karagounis went on: "It's not something that I was the only one to witness. That's why the value of this qualification is great. I can say that we managed to overcome huge obstacles."
Those included the controversial sending-off of Sokratis Papastathopoulos in their opening game, Karagounis' missed penalty in the same game and an incorrectly disallowed goal against eventual group winners Czech Republic. On Saturday, Karagounis was denied a blatant penalty and instead booked for diving to rule him out of the quarter-finals.
The veteran midfielder, who earned a national record-equalling 120th cap, said: "You have all seen what happened since the first match. Our team could have had, let's say, seven points. In general, all refereeing calls were against our team. Everyone who's involved in the team, they have to be congratulated for what they achieved."
He added: "We had all the soul and the heart that are the ingredients of our team. We have proven the character of this team. We played just for one result. It was the third match away despite the fact that our supporters made us feel really emotional."
Russia's head coach Dick Advocaat reacted angrily to suggestions his final game in charge saw his side play badly. The PSV Eindhoven-bound boss said: "I think we played quite well. We went forward and the other team just defended. So, don't say that we didn't play well today. It's true that we conceded a goal and we simply didn't put away our chances.
"But in the first half I think we played really well. And, in the second half, against a team like Greece, with all respect, it was hard to play against. It's not that we didn't play well. If you say that, I don't think you watched the game well."