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Captain Karagounis sings Greece's praises

Captain Giorgos Karagounis attributed Greece's 2-1 win against Israel to "passion and heart", accepting no personal credit for scoring the penalty that sent his side to the top of Group F.

Giorgos Karagounis (left) leads the celebrations after scoring Greece's winner
Giorgos Karagounis (left) leads the celebrations after scoring Greece's winner ©Getty Images

Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis ascribed his side's 2-1 UEFA EURO 2012 success against Israel to "heart and soul" after his penalty took Fernando Santos's team top of Group F.

The 33-year-old Panathinaikos FC midfielder, who had made his 100th international appearance against Latvia on Friday, kept his nerve to convert from the spot and restore Greece's lead after Nikos Spyropoulos's own goal had cancelled out a Dimitris Salpingidis opener in a close contest at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus.

"This victory was achieved though heart and soul," said Karagounis, whose goal was the seventh of his Greece career. "It is not easy to win two games in a row at this level when the pressure is on. Everyone put in a huge amount of effort and we deserved the win.

"From the beginning we knew it would be a difficult match," added Karagounis. "We had passion and heart and we managed to get ahead. We conceded an unlucky goal but were able to respond quickly and regain the advantage, and we also had chances to make it 3-1. It's a very significant victory, because at this point we have a lot of players who have either retired or are injured."

Despite registering what proved to be the decisive 63rd-minute goal, Karagounis typically refused to take the credit. "It was important that we won, so it doesn't matter who scored," he said. "We showed great desire to win and that is what matters to me."

With second-ranked Croatia, who beat Israel 2-1 in Tel Aviv on Saturday, not in competitive action until November, the result left Greece a point clear at the group summit, with their next fixture against Malta scheduled for March.

"There is still a long way to go," said Karagounis. "Already there have been some surprise results so we are not listening to any suggestions that qualification is secure and we will continue with the same mindset."