Greece win dedicated to natives
Veteran midfielder Katsouranis revels in joy for countrymen
Last Updated: June 17, 2012 6:03pm
Kostas Katsouranis: Was part of Greece's triumphant Euro 2004 side
Kostas Katsouranis has dedicated Greece's qualification from Group A to the financially stricken compatriots in his homeland.
With Greece the subject of an economic crisis, their national football team are once again making headlines at a major European tournament, knocking out much-fancied Russia on Saturday.
Captain Giorgos Karagounis scored the only goal in a narrow win, which saw the Greeks progress, against the odds, along with Czech Republic.
Co-hosts Poland also missed out with the Russians, and midfielder Katsouranis revealed his pride at bringing joy to those in his homeland.
"We wanted to give everybody back home something to cheer, to celebrate," Katsouranis told reporters at the team's training base outside the Polish capital Warsaw.
"Everybody in Greece - even our families, our friends, our brothers, our cousins, everyone - is having a really hard time," he added.
"The most important thing is that all of us on the team never put ourselves above the team. We represent our country. So we know what we have to do."
Along with Karagounis, who will be suspended for the quarter-final, and goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias, who missed the Russia game due to a hamstring injury, Katsouranis is one of a trio of players in the squad who were in Greece's Euro 2004 winning side.
In the wake of their shock European Championship title Greece have since failed to shine, suggesting such glory is unlikely to be repeated.
Greece started their campaign at Euro 2012 in indifferent style too, with a 1-1 draw against the Poles followed by a 2-1 defeat to the Czechs.
Russia had only needed a draw to make it to the quarter-finals, but conceded a fine goal by Karagounis in stoppage-time in the first half and then failed to breach Greece's solid defence.
Katsouranis said the players were still coming to terms with their feat: "It's too difficult to describe the feelings after what happened. We can't describe what we feel in words," he said.
"I think the most important thing is that we in a short period of time achieved the status of being among the eight best teams in Europe, and that's a huge achievement for the Greeks."
Greece already know they will play their quarter-final in the Baltic port of Gdansk next Friday, facing the winners of Group B, which wraps up on Sunday.
The odds favour a clash with Germany, who are tipped as potential Euro 2012 winners - in a group which also includes Holland, Portugal and Denmark - but Katsouranis says Greece would take any opponents in their stride.
"The next big challenge for us is the next match. We'll see who our next opponents are. We're going to work hard, as always, and we believe in our chances.
"In my opinion, there's no difference who the opponents are, Germany or another team. It's a quarter-final. It's going to be a tough, hard match. We're going to give our best and try to do whatever we can do."