The 2004 winners looked on the verge of crashing out before the 35-year-old’s goal proved enough for Fernando Santos’ men to produce yet another European Championship shock on par with their triumph eight-years ago. On the night when Karagounis on equalled a national record by earning his 120th cap Greece saved their best performance till last and no-one can dispute that they didn’t deserve the victory as the final whistle brought an end to proceedings in the National Stadium.
Russia’s limp display was in stark contrast to their opening game against the Czech Republic and they were made to pay for barely testing goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis. Dick Advocaat’s men were favourites to top Group A prior to the tournament and knew even a defeat wouldn’t necessarily prevent them from qualifying for the knock-out stage whilst their opponents knew it was win or broke.
Greece flew out of the traps and almost went ahead after six minutes when Kostas Katsouranis hooked Karagounis’ forcing Vyacheslav Malafeev into an impressive acrobatic save although the ball was heading wide. Vassilis Torossidis then had a shot blocked before Russia began to flex their technical dexterity with Andrey Arshavin poking Alan Dzagoev’s cross wide whilst Aleksandr Kerzhakov sent a 20-yard volley just over the bar.
Kerzhakov should have scored seven minutes before break but embarrassingly missed Dzagoev’s cutback completely and it was to prove costly as Karagounis pounced on Yuri Zhirkov weak header to drill the ball past the Malafeev on the stroke of half time. Advocaat acted immediately hauling off Kerzakhov replacing him with Roman Pavluyuchenko for the second half. But Russia continued to struggle in their attempts to break down a staunch Greece back line with Roman Shirokov and Igor Denisov trying their luck from range.
Aleksandr Anyukov then prevented the Greeks from doubling their lead clearing Torossidis’ cross as Theofanis Gekas waited to pounce and they were then denied a 61st minute penalty after Karagounis weaved his way into the penalty area seeing his progress halted by the outstretched leg of Sergei Ignashevich. Remarkably referee Jonas Eriksson booked the captain for diving and he will now miss the quarter final.
Still Greece continued their quest for a second goal that would secure their progression and Giorgos Tzavellas was a whisker away after curling a brilliant free-kick off of angle of post and crossbar. With the news that Czech Republic were beating Poland in Wroclaw the Russians went for broke and Denisov went close to equalising drilling a fine shot at Sifakis before Dzagoev wasted their best chance glancing Arshavin’s cross wide as the final whistle sealed their fate.