Kostas Katsouranis had plenty to smile about as Greece flew back from Bratislava to Athens following their 1-0 FIFA World Cup qualifying win against Slovakia – having marked his 100th cap with the through ball for Dimitris Salpingidis's goal.
"There are nights when a team don't perform well but still manage to snatch maximum points," he told UEFA.com. "On the way to the World Cup finals, such victories are sometimes on the menu. They are indicative of a team's character and resilience. We have proved again and again over the past ten years that we have those qualities. We will continue on our path, taking it one match at a time, and see where that leads us – hopefully straight to the World Cup."
During the flight home, the crew presented Katsouranis with a cake to celebrate his latest career milestone, as the 33-year-old became the fourth Greek international to get into three figures following Giorgos Karagounis (122 and still going strong), Theodoros Zagorakis (120) and Angelos Basinas (100). "This record makes me really happy and proud," the defensive midfielder said. "I owe it to my team-mates and coaches down the years. A big thank you to them all."
Katsouranis made his debut in August 2003 in a 2-1 friendly win in Sweden, while his 12th cap came in the most important victory of all – the 1-0 triumph over Portugal in the UEFA EURO 2004 final. However, when asked to pick the favourite moment of his national-team career, the Panathinaikos FC man did not go with the obvious choice.
"These 100 caps bring back lots of memories – mainly the everyday moments spent with the lads, training and travelling," he explained. "The Greece squad is a very close-knit group and that's the secret to our success.
We have become one big group of friends who look forward to being called up for the national team and spending time together."
Katsouranis has competed at the last three EUROs and the 2010 World Cup, yet remains ambitious. "I have achieved all my dreams with the national side – more than I could have hoped for – but I still set goals," he said. "My wish now is to qualify for the World Cup. The fact it takes place in Brazil, one of the homes of football, makes it so special. It would be wonderful for us to play there."
Greece are level on ten points from four games with Group G leaders Bosnia and Herzegovina, whom they meet in their next qualifier in Zenica on 22 March, with the countries having drawn 0-0 in Piraeus on Friday. "Right now, Greece and Bosnia have equal chances to top the group and our match in March is very important," said Katsouranis.
"However, there will still be five fixtures left after that game and many points to be won and lost. Even if we draw in Bosnia, they still have tough games in Latvia and Slovakia. We have the advantage of having already won those two away matches."
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.