Charalambos Lykogiannis described the extra-time goal that sent Greece into the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final at the expense of England as "the best moment of my career", but hopes better yet may lie ahead.
The 2007 runners-up produced a tireless effort to defeat England at the Lilleküla Stadium in Tallinn. Mavroudis Bougaidis's 38th-minute header gave Kostas Tsanas's side the lead before goalkeeper Stefanos Kapino was sent off before the break. Substitute Sokratis Dioudis saved Robert Hall's resulting penalty, however, and though Benik Afobe equalised early in the second half to take the game into extra time, Lykogiannis popped up to expertly lob in the winning goal with 12 minutes remaining.
"I am delighted and almost can't believe we are going through to play the final," the Olympiacos FC player told UEFA.com. "The match was so intense and difficult especially as we were playing with ten men for 45 minutes. We were defending almost all of the time after Kapino was given the red card and that made it almost impossible to attack."
Choosing their moments to push forward with the utmost care, Greece took advantage of a defensive lapse by Nathaniel Chalobah in the 108th minute. Lykogiannis beat Thomas Thorpe to the ball before calmly lifting a shot over goalkeeper Sam Johnstone to take his team into the final.
"Even though England scored to level the match, we were certain we would hold on and that it would go into extra time," Lykogiannis said. "We were focused and determined throughout.
The result was a fair one, we deserved to go through. It's the best moment of my career and it will be the first time most of us will play in a final of this magnitude."
Defending champions Spain await in Sunday's showpiece in what will be a repeat of the 2007 final when La Rojita claimed a 1-0 win courtesy of Dani Parejo's free-kick winner in Linz. The result was the same when the teams met at the beginning of these finals in Estonia, Julen Lopetegui's side triumphing 2-1 in the Group A opener.
Despite history standing against them, however, Lykogiannis says he can foresee a Greek success. "I am thrilled we're going to the final on Sunday," he said. "The hard work we have been putting in until now has paid off and the only thing I am dreaming of now is that we are going to receive the trophy and take it back home to Greece."
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