Given the shaky start they made at the National Stadium Warsaw, Greece's 1-1 draw against Poland in UEFA EURO 2012 Group A was something of a triumph, but coach Fernando Santos does not want them to live on their nerves in the same way when they meet the Czech Republic.
In the first half his team fell behind to a Robert Lewandowski goal, lost Avraam Papadopoulos to an injury that has already forced him to return to Athens and had Sokratis Papastathopoulos dismissed following two bookings. They recovered through Dimitris Salpingidis's opportunistic strike, and might have gone on to win had it not been for a penalty save, yet the coach is not one to linger on the positives.
"We were prepared for every circumstance against Poland," Santos said as he pondered the sluggish start made on Friday. "I will talk to my players and see if they know what went wrong and why they couldn't play as we had planned. I've written all the mistakes they made on a big board, under the heading 'What we should avoid'."
With 21 players left to choose from for Tuesday's game in Wroclaw, and minus his two regular central defenders, the Portuguese trainer is eager to avoid another slow opening when Greece encounter a Czech side seeking a response to their 4-1 loss to Russia. "We need to be more fresh in Wroclaw. We will work on a few details and watch videos of the Czechs."
Vice-captain Kostas Katsouranis believes the Czechs are a stronger outfit than Poland, and feels his team can ill afford another tremulous beginning. "In the first 20 minutes our rivals got the better of us," he said. "They took the initiative and were boosted by their crowd. We were not organised. In football there's no time-out for the coach, but when Sokratis was sent off it was almost half-time and we were able to go to the dressing room, collect ourselves and get some advice from Mr Santos. In the second half we came out more focused, changed the tactics. We started linking up better and detected fear in the eyes of our opponents. By then we knew we could turn the match around."
That they did was some achievement, though fellow midfielder Sotiris Ninis knows there are lessons to be learned as well as reasons for quiet satisfaction. "We shouldn't waste so much time before getting into a match," he explained. "We didn't do what we had planned. However, our performance in the second half is proof we deserve to be at these finals."
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