Greece's Stafylidis pays tribute to superior Spain
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Kostas Stafylidis admitted Spain deserved their UEFA European Under-19 Championship final win but says runners-up Greece can be proud of a "huge experience".
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Kostas Stafylidis acknowledged Greece had come up short at the last after Kostas Tsanas' side succumbed to Spain in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final.
Greece showed the same fortitude they have displayed throughout the past fortnight in Estonia at the Lilleküla Stadium, but a tally of one shot on target to their opponents' eight told its own story as Spain finally broke through when Jesé Rodríguez slotted in the only goal of the game with ten minutes left. "We tried but the match didn't go our way," Stafylidis told UEFA.com. "Spain were better in some areas.
"We knew it would be very tough," the Greece left-back added. "Spain managed to score at a key moment of the match and hold on to that lead until the end. It's not at all easy to defend against them and try think about attacking at the same time. We tried our best and held out for 80 minutes."
Despite the final disappointment, Stafylidis – who provided two assists in his four appearances at the tournament and posed a constant danger with his crossing and set pieces – has relished the experience. "To be honest, we haven't yet realised that we made it to the final match of the European Championship; it seemed just like another tournament," he said. "Now, with the medal ceremony and all, it's a huge experience. We will keep that in our memory and we will continue."
The next immediate target for this group of players is the FIFA U-20 World Cup next summer, but bearing in mind Greece last reached the U19 final in 2007 – when they also lost 1-0 to Spain – and Sotiris Ninis, Kostas Mitroglou and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who missed the final through suspension, were part of the UEFA EURO 2012 squad, the long-term plan is clear.
"Our next aim is to perform well at the World Cup in Turkey," Stafylidis added. "We will do our best to be strong there as well. What we must build on is the fact that we are like a family. If we hold on to that, we will keep improving and achieving great feats."
Greece have done just that over the past five games, and when pressed for his best memory, the PAOK FC defender had no hesitation. "The second goal against England, and the qualification for the final, is the image that will remain engraved on my mind," he explained. "Participating in the final was very important of course, but the goal against England was by far our finest moment, and our most important."