Greece know that victory against Russia in Warsaw on Saturday will send them through to the last eight, but can they do it? Vassiliki Papantonopoulou takes a close look.
The match in Warsaw's National Stadium had just finished and the 1-1 draw between Poland and Russia left the situation in Group A fascinatingly poised. In Wroclaw airport, meanwhile, the Greece team were boarding their chartered flight back to the Polish capital. The news from the later game in the section meant just one thing, as GoalNews suggested today: "Beat the Russians and qualify."
Fernando Santos's side depend on no one going into their final group match in Warsaw and there will be no complex calculations to make after the final whistle. Everything is crystal clear: if Greece overcome the Group A leaders, they will advance to the last eight, no matter what. And if they don't, they can pack their bags the same night.
The equation is simple, but defeating Russia will be anything but. And not because Dick Advocaat's men boast quality beyond Greece's reach – with all due respect, the Russians are very tough, yet hardly unbeatable.
No, the element of doubt concerns whether the Greece team that has appeared at UEFA EURO 2012 thus far has the fresh legs, the clarity of mind and the right collective understanding to get the job done.
So far, Santos's men have displayed a lack of concentration in the early stages of their encounters that has cost them five points. And the most worrying aspect is that it has happened not once but twice. That looks to be more a symptom than a coincidence. "They hadn't done their homework," SportDay's headline put it today.
These lapses in focus have come hand in hand with defensive mistakes uncharacteristic of a team heralded for their work at the back. Too much space has been left for opponents to exploit, especially on the left of defence, while against the Czech Republic it took time for a makeshift rearguard and unfamiliar midfield trio to get to know each other. They paid dearly for it.
There has also been a certain predictability about their attacking methods, with a reliance on long crosses seeking out a header or hoping for a defensive slip (which Petr Čech duly obliged with yesterday). But is everything really as gloomy as it may seem? Yes... and no. There have certainly been too many mistakes to dismiss them as bad luck, yet Santos will also be able to welcome back Sokratis Papastathopoulos from suspension.
That will bring stability to the back line as the 24-year-old has previous experience of partnering Kyriakos Papadopoulos in the middle, while the input of midfielder Kostas Fortounis in both matches offers hope that Greece can play a different kind of attacking game – one in which the ball spends more time on the pitch than in the air.