Giorgos Karagounis is set to win a record-breaking 121st cap when Greece take on Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday, and while the veteran midfielder considers the milestone a proud moment, he is focused on the task at hand.
Karagounis last played for Greece on 16 June at UEFA EURO 2012 when he scored the only goal against Russia to take his side through to the last eight. A suspension followed, forcing the 35-year-old to miss the 4-2 defeat by Germany. Perhaps more harrowing for Karagounis was being denied the honour of surpassing Theodoros Zagorakis's long-standing landmark of 120 international appearances. He will not have to wait much longer, though.
"It's a huge achievement. I made my senior international debut in 1999 and I was already 22. I could hardly have dreamed what has followed," he told UEFA.com ahead of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Group G visit to Piraeus. "It's not the number itself that matters but what I have achieved in those years. I am so proud. Ever since the draw, we knew that Bosnia and Herzegovina would be our toughest opponents. They proved that by making an excellent start to the group. We need to be extremely focused and perform to a high level in order to overcome them."
Last month the midfielder ended his second five-year spell with Panathinaikos FC by joining Fulham FC, where he made his Premier League debut as a second-half substitute against Manchester City FC. "It feels nice to be back," he said. "It has been almost four months since my last match for Greece. After a difficult summer, I signed for a good club in a very competitive league. That was always my aim. Now I have started playing for Fulham and I am back with the national team. Luckily, everything has fallen into place."
Fernando Santos's charges have had the perfect start to qualifying Group G with opening victories against Latvia and Lithuania, while Karagounis took an unaccustomed back seat. "It was so strange to watch Greece playing on television. It was an unusual situation for me. In all my years with the national team, I only ever missed matches through suspension. The team did really well," he said. "These matches had been labelled as straightforward but you can't afford to take anyone lightly. The team were focused and picked up an important six points."
What next, then, for Karagounis? "I like to live for the moment and I avoid looking any further, especially given my age. As long as I feel that I can compete at a high level, I will always be at the disposal of my national team coach."
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