Santos proud as punch of Greek players

23 June 2012 12:17

Greece coach Fernando Santos said that his players would leave Euro 2012 having grown in stature despite being on the wrong end of a 4-2 hammering by a vastly superior Germany in Friday's quarter-final.

The 57-year-old Portuguese, who more than justified his 45% pay rise in his recently-signed contract as they qualified for the last eight at the expense of heavily-fancied Russia, said his side had never faltered during the match even when they were 4-1 down and took many positives away from the tournament.

"I want to congratulate my players because they fought at this game until the very last moment, and of course they managed to make it this far," said Santos, who guided Porto to the 1999 league title and then to Cup wins in 2000 and 2001.

"What we take out of this tournament is the mental strength, soul and passion we displayed in all our games.

"We will try to correct things on our game, whether in friendlies or in training sessions in order to be better during the World Cup qualifiers."

Santos, who replaced Euro 2004 winning coach Otto Rehhagel after the Greeks went out in the group stage at the 2010 World Cup finals, praised the Germans, who stuck to their task despite missing a plethora of chances which looked like it might be costly when the Greeks equalised 10 minutes into the second-half.

"I would like to congratulate the German side, they played very well.

"However, I would also like to congratulate my own team for all the effort put into this tournament.

"With respect to the first-half, the German team was really good, they deserved this huge percentage of possession. We didn't have the space to breathe.

"Despite our defensive efforts, we conceded a goal which made things really difficult for us.

"At half time, I told the players to try to take more chances, without losing our defensive concentration, and that if we could score once we could try to get back into the game and try to take something out of it.

"The bad thing was we conceded our second goal really soon, and that clipped our wings."

Santos, who had stoutly defended the Greek people throughout Euro over what he thought was a patronising attitude by foreigners to their economic nightmare, admitted the suspension of talismanic captain Giorgos Karagounis had been crucial.

"He's a very important player for us, mainly because he's really experienced and can keep the ball, providing additional space for us as a result," said Santos.

"We really missed this element today. especially in the first half, we needed more calm, and we needed a player who can keep possession, because we grew tired."

Santos, who knows Greek football inside out as he has had four spells coaching Greek clubs, said he wouldn't have changed anything in the strategy laid out by him before the match.

"I wouldn't change anything, this was a proper plan.

"That we should be really compact in our defence but at the same time to have some possession to create chances, which is why we had (Sotiris) Ninis in the starting 11."

Santos, who had a short playing career with Maritimo and Estoril before calling it a day aged just 21, said it was no surprise that Germany had been so strong and that his opinion hadn't changed from before the tournament.

"I've said this since the beginning, even before the tournament. The favourites are Spain and Germany. Germany have proven they are a very strong squad.

"We must not forget that the German squad is really good, they have really good players, even when the regulars aren't playing, their replacements are really good.

Greek defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who plays for Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, said that it was no shame to lose to such a side.

"We have played against one of the best teams in the last five years."

Source: AFP