Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis was at the centre of everything on Saturday, scoring what proved to be the winning goal in first-half stoppage time and getting controversially booked for diving in the second period of a match that sent Russia hurtling out of Euro 2012.
- Karagounis, who was also making his record-tying 120th appearance for Greece in Warsaw (former skipper Theo Zagorakis was also capped 120 times) scored the only goal of a match in which his side were otherwise outplayed, taking advantage of sloppy Russian defending as he burst in on goal. A long throw by Vasilis Torosidis should have been headed clear by Sergei Ignashevich, but the Russian centre-back casually nodded the ball to the feet of Karagounis who took a few, powerful strides before beating goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev to the far post.
- Both Karagounis and Ignashevich were again the centres of attention on the hour-mark when, having gone to ground inside the area, the Greece captain was booked for diving. Replays showed the decision by Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson to be harsh, and Karagounis might also have been awarded a penalty as it was Ignashevich’s trailing leg that tripped him up.
- Karagounis, who was also booked against Poland on the opening day of the tournament, will now miss Greece’s semifinal against the winner of Group B. Left-back Jose Holebas, who came on as a second-half substitute against Russia, will also be serving a one-match ban.
- Russia started brightly enough and from about the 10th minute to Karagounis’ shock opener were the dominant side of the encounter. Alan Dzagoev, with three goals in his previous two matches, blasted just over the bar in the 12th minute and Alexander Kerzhakov came close to opening his account just two minutes later, only to miss the target. When Yuri Zhirkov exploded down the flank and left Torosidis in his dust in the 17th minute it seemed just a matter of time before the floodgates opened for Russia.
- Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who was exceptional on the night, made his most important contribution to the Greek defense just prior to the half-hour when his diving, last-second intervention on Andrei Arshavin’s searching cross denied Dzagoev a tap-in.
- Russia was left to rue their missed opportunities at the break as they went down the tunnel having kept nearly two-thirds of possession and launched 13 shots at goal. Greece, meanwhile, took only two shots in the opening period—one of which opened the scoring in the second minute of stoppage time.
- Kerzhakov was replaced by Pavlyuchenko to start the second half. A strong linking player against the Czech Republic and Poland, Kerzhakov struggled to assert himself against Greece and never seemed to be able to provide a target for his teammates—such was the coverage of Papadopoulos and Kokratis Papastathopoulos.
- Dzagoev was mostly quiet in the second half as well, although he should have equalised in the 84th minute when his header from Arshavin’s cross shaved the outside of the post before going wide. Having operated so well together in a free, playmaking tandem behind a lone striker in the first two matches, Dzagoev and Arshavin found themselves repeatedly pressed for space against Greece.
- Greece left-back Georgios Tzavelas was solid in his first match of the tournament. Holebas, who was always something of a wildcard coming into Euro 2012, disappointed in the first two matches but Tzavelas, who spent the latter half of last season on loan at Monaco from Eintracht Frankfurt, proved an inspired insertion on Saturday as he managed to mostly shut off the supply line from Russia’s right flank. Russia were too often narrow in their buildup play, and both Tzavelas and Torosidis can take some credit for that.
1. Giorgos Karagounis
2. Kyriakos Papadopoulos
3. Kostas Katsouranis
Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer