Several hours after Greece defeated Portugal 3-2 to qualify for the semi-finals of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship, captain Giorgos Katidis and his team-mates celebrated their success with pizzas – a treat they had been craving since their arrival in Estonia.
After the party atmosphere died down, the Greece No10 – whose double strike in the victory brought his tournament total to three – was still unable to shake the smile from his face. "We won, what's not to smile about?" he told UEFA.com at his team's headquarters in Tallinn. "I haven't received so many messages on my phone since my birthday. It's a great feeling. I am so happy right now and I can't wait for Thursday's semi-final [against England]."
Playing down his own contribution as Greece reached the last four for the first time since 2007, Katidis said that "the only thing that matters is that the team is winning," before adding with a grin: "Everybody says that in interviews, don't they? Anyway, I play up front and it's part of my job to get involved in goalscoring situations and make the best of the opportunities I get. Against Portugal, everything worked like clockwork."
The Aris Thessaloniki FC forward's second goal of the evening came courtesy of a pinpoint cross from team-mate Giannis Gianniotas, a player with whom Katidis enjoys a strong bond. "We've been together since we were practically babies at our club and with the national teams," he said. "We can combine with our eyes closed in training. It's so easy for us to guess each other's movements on the pitch."
Greece did not enjoy the best of openings to this year's U19 tournament, losing 2-1 to Spain in Haapsalu, and their captain admitted that slow starts have become an unwanted tradition for Greek teams playing at international tournaments.
"We have developed a rather bad reputation of always losing the first match at big finals," he said. "We get nervous and a bit frustrated. But then, almost miraculously, we recover. In our case, we remind ourselves that we have been together as a team for five years now and we know how to deal with adversity. Our progress in this tournament has shown that."
Greece's semi-final opponents England enjoyed a narrow 1-0 group stage win when the teams met at the 2010 UEFA European U17 Championship in Liechtenstein in a game Katidis remembers well. "Having played against them back then I know they usually produce excellent teams who are very tough to beat," he said. "I also know that they won't underestimate us. Tactically, it will be an interesting match."
Is Katidis now dreaming about captaining Greece to their first ever success at U19 level? "Our coach shows us a picture of the trophy almost every day as a motivation and we are really starting to dream about winning it to be honest," he said. "We are only one game away from the final now."
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.