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Battle-hardened Greece finally forced out

Published: Saturday 23 June 2012, 11.55CET
Having got out of several awkward situations, Greece have plenty to be proud about after exiting UEFA EURO 2012. Vassilki Papantonopoulou assesses their campaign.
by Vassilki Papantonopoulou
from Gdansk

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Published: Saturday 23 June 2012, 11.55CET

Battle-hardened Greece finally forced out

Having got out of several awkward situations, Greece have plenty to be proud about after exiting UEFA EURO 2012. Vassilki Papantonopoulou assesses their campaign.

Greece wound back the clock after a terrible start to UEFA EURO 2012, surpassing expectations by reaching the quarter-finals before meeting the might of Germany. UEFA.com reflects on their campaign.

In a nutshell
Greece exit with their heads held high, helping banish the bad memories of UEFA EURO 2008 with a return to the never-say-die attitude that served them so well in 2004. They reached the quarter-finals the hard way, winning a 'final' against group favourites Russia, but never looked like scaling a formidable German wall. A new generation of defenders have emerged; Fernando Santos's job is to find attacking options and creativity to complement them.

Greece were, however, guilty of several lapses of concentration, and it cost them dear. They had to draw on all their tenacity to fight back from a man and a goal down against Poland in the tournament opener, then shipped two goals in the first six minutes against the Czech Republic – the worst ever start to a UEFA European Championship game. After equalising they let their guard slip again in the quarter-finals; by the time they recovered their poise Germany were driving off into the distance.

High point
Greece's fighting spirit drew wonderment, papering over the cracks left by their fallibility. Time and again their ambitions looked to have gone down in flames, only to rise, Phoenix-like, from the smoking pyre. It was heroic stuff.

Key man
No Greece player maintained a high level throughout – the Czech Republic loss was an unreserved failure – but Dimitris Salpingidis was central to their successes. A substitute against Poland, he came on at half-time to score the equaliser and earn a penalty. Against Russia, he was omnipresent in attack and helped keep Yuri Zhirkov quiet going the other way, while in the quarter-final he set up Giorgos Samaras for the equaliser and later converted from the spot. Salpingidis's constant movement and selflessness were invaluable to Greece.

Hope for the future
Kyriakos Papadopoulos was Greece's great hope even before UEFA EURO 2012, and he lived up to his billing. Only 20, he has all the assets of a great centre-back – quick, aerially strong, with good positioning and a sound reading of the game – and ably stepped into the breach when Avraam Papadopoulos (no relation) suffered a tournament-ending injury early on against Poland. He has room for improvement, as was apparent in the quarter-final, but is on the right track.

Vital statistic
Greece had fewer attempts on goal than any other side at UEFA EURO 2012: 14 in four matches at an average of 3.5 per game. Santos's side were nothing if not clinical.

Final word
"We enjoyed every moment and the fact that we had to battle every day. We fought as hard as we could and we leave the tournament with our heads held high."
Salpingidis on Greece's tenacious attitude

Last updated: 25/09/14 4.43CET

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