"Our feelings are hard to describe," a smiling and relaxed Kostas Katsouranis said today in a press conference held at Greece's team hotel in Jachranka. "We are all so happy; we haven't yet grasped the significance of our achievement."
A day after Greece's 1-0 victory against Russia, the 32-year-old defensive midfielder, a veteran of the UEFA EURO 2004-winning team, stated the obvious: "We are once again among Europe's eight best teams – that's a huge accomplishment."
Katsouranis was more than satisfied with Greece's performance. "I think we played great, especially defensively. We closed down space as best as we could and gave the Russians no opportunities to threaten our goal. When we had possession, we managed to make the most of it. We qualified deservedly."
So what next for Greece? Head coach Fernando Santos was clear. "No matter who we play, the quarter-final is going to be very tough. However, it's another ball game now. These are knockout matches over 90 minutes, extra time perhaps and even penalty shoot-outs. Anything can happen. We will prepare as best we can. We know our strengths and limitations. We are not the best in the world, but we will look to stretch ourselves."
The Portuguese coach will have to cope with the absence through suspension of his skipper Giorgos Karagounis, whose goal decided the outcome of the match against Russia. "It's a loss for us," he said. "For his experience, his game, his ability to inspire his team-mates. Now it is up to me to find the best possible solution. I am confident that whoever is called to fill his place will do so without problem."
When asked about Greece's prospects, Katsouranis was optimistic: "After our performance yesterday, our confidence is even greater. Between us, partly joking, we were saying yesterday before the match that we have four matches left. We don't know where our adventure here will take us. We always trust in our abilities. We are not looking for reassurance. Football is a game. We know we have a good team, a mixture of experienced and young players."
On Friday, talking off the record with Greek journalists, Katsouranis had correctly predicted a 1-0 victory against Russia. What is his prediction for the quarter-final? "We will go through after a penalty shoot-out," he said. "After missing three penalties in the last few weeks, we will come good."
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