Friday 19 January 2018

Austerity pays off for Greece as Russia limp out

Greece 1 Russia 0 Chris Bascombe

Nobody parks the chariot more effectively than the Greeks.

No matter how much their Portuguese manager, Fernando Santos, appeals for his side to be perceived as more than staunch defence, his players go and undermine him with another heroic rearguard action.

They took their place in the quarter-final with a victory over Russia which bordered on the nonsensical until Giorgos Karagounis' winner in first-half injury time. They were struggling to get out of their own half until then.

Russia had been easing to qualification, effortlessly keeping possession with Arsenal's Andrey Arshavin rediscovering the form which had taken him to the Emirates and, more significantly, shaking off that which had led to him being shipped out on loan.

Complacency is the only explanation for the Russian exit. They could have gone on to win this competition, and while there are plenty of Poles celebrating their departure -- particularly the riot police -- a meeting between Russia and Germany had the potential to be the game of the tournament.

Instead, the Greeks will bring a game which is commendable rather than invigorating into the latter stages. It is churlish not to appreciate their success, but there is nothing enthralling about it. In their first two games they had just five shots on target and scored three goals. They had seven on Saturday night, which in their case represents a tentative move towards total football. They're certainly the most efficient side here.

Had the Russians more of the Greek pragmatism, they'd still be in the tournament.

Dick Advocaat's team were struck by panic once the Greeks took the lead, and their erratic second-half performance enabled the 2004 winners to threaten more on the counter-attack.

They will lose their inspiration Karagounis for their last-eight tie in Gdansk, however. He was booked for diving, the second unjust suspension they have suffered this tournament, although the tantrum it provoked was a tournament highlight. Instead of being banned, the Greek captain should have been taking a penalty having been tripped by Sergei Ignashevich.

The Greek's returning hero was 24-year-old centre-half Sokratis Papastathopoulos, back after being wrongly dismissed against Poland, whose commanding performance belied his youth.

In their own country, the Greeks are voting whether to support the austerity movement, many within the country vehemently opposed to a rigid formula as a means to progress.

They should be watching their football team in more detail.

If the philosophy of the Greek national side matched the political landscape at home, the austerity movement would romp to victory. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport