If there is one player in the Greece squad who is impervious to pressure, it is Kostas Katsouranis.
Coming up to his 33rd birthday, the veteran of the UEFA EURO 2004 triumph is not letting the sense of anticipation and urgency ahead of Saturday's Group A "final" get to him; he remains as level-headed as ever. "In order to qualify for the knockout rounds of a tournament like this, every team needs to come through at least one difficult match. We have nothing to be afraid of," he said.
One point from two games at UEFA EURO 2012 has caused some anxiety, and Katsouranis admits something was missing – luck. He added: "We were definitely not lucky at all, especially in the game against the Czech Republic. Generally speaking, during the first two matches here in Poland, good fortune has abandoned us. That's why we are thinking positively about the third game. We are due some luck."
Katsouranis has fulfilled many roles for Greece over the course of his 93 caps, be it in holding midfield or all across the back line. He does what is asked and hopes Greece can too against a side to whom they need no introduction. They have met Russia at each of the last two UEFA European Championships, losing both games, though their most recent meeting last November ended 1-1.
Katsouranis got the equaliser that night after Roman Shirokov had given Russia a second-minute lead – the habit of conceding early has continued to afflict Greece at UEFA EURO 2012. "It is always discouraging when your opponents score, especially at the beginning of the match, but these things happen in football. In both previous games we fought hard to get back into it – in the first match we managed to, but not the second."
So what is the plan now? "We will try to ensure we are focused from the start and concentrate on our defence. If we stay focused, if we manage to keep it at 0-0, chances will come at the other end and we can win. There is nothing to be afraid of."
On Sunday there are elections in Greece as the country seeks to find a solution to their huge economic problems. The hardship of those back home provides added motivation, says Katsouranis. "
In any situation, either with the crisis or without it, we would be doing our best to make Greece happy. But now the situation is really difficult and we would really like to give them something to smile about."
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.