Bittersweet night for Greece captain Karagounis at Euro 2012

The inspirational skipper scored the goal that sent his side through to the quarter-finals but will be denied the chance to play after picking up an unlucky yellow card
 Mike Paterakis
 Greece Expert
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For Giorgos Karagounis, the triumph against Russia was the definition of a dream night. Sort of.

The 35-year-old midfielder scored Greece's only goal in the game - a goal that was enough to see his team through to the quarter-finals - the day he celebrated his 120th international appearance. A stunning record, previously held only by the captain of the Euro 2004 team Theodoros Zagorakis. What else could he ask for?
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Well, for starters, the chance to play for Greece in the last eight. His much-fought right, however, would be unfairly deprived by Jonas Eriksson, the referee.

In the 61st minute, Karagounis danced through Russia's defence and just before he had the chance to beat Vyacheslav Malafeev for a second time, he was tripped in the box. Immediately he turned to look at Eriksson, perfectly sure that the cool-headed Swede would point to the spot.

Alas, the official reached for his pocket and brandished the yellow card instead. Karagounis went ballistic. The damage, though, had been done. With a second booking in three games, he would be forced to watch the quarter-final of Gdansk from the bench.

"It was a penalty 100 per cent. I was booked for no reason and I will miss the next match," Karagounis muttered to reporters when he went to the press conference room of the National Stadium to receive his man of the match award.

"Uefa has to see the video of the game," he continued, clearly unable to accept his fate a whole hour after the final whistle.

If Karagounis was any other footballer, his last quote might be described as selfish. But who can say that to the man who missed the chance to play at a Euro final in 2004 for the very same reason?
"It was a penalty 100 per cent. I was booked for no reason and I will miss the next match"

And let's not forget that he has suffered more than any other player from the cruelty of this particular punishment. Yes, Karagounis is the yellow cards "champion of champions", having received eight in the finals of three different Euros, three more than the second in the list, Pavel Nedved.

Yet, this booking was just one in a series of misjudged calls Greece have suffered so far in the tournament. In the opener against hosts Poland, Sokratis Papastathopoulos saw two far-fetched yellows from referee Carlos Velasco Carballo and as a result his teammates had to turn things around with a numerical disadvantage in the entire second half of the game.

In the second match against Czech Republic, the Werder Bremen defender was unavailable, while midfielder Giorgos Fotakis had a clearly onside goal disallowed for offside.  

Preoccupied with the referees' decisions, Karagounis didn't hesitate to voice his concern even after the second game. His team had failed to prove that they deserved something better than the defeat, but he was insisting that in such a short tournament, mistakes by referees cannot be corrected.

Without realising it, though, he proved himself wrong as he managed to do justice for Greece against Russia.

And Karagounis did justice for himself as well after letting down his teammates with his missed penalty against Poland. He had his chance to put Greece in the driving seat, but he missed it and Russia was his last chance to make amends.

After his goal in the first half had put his side ahead, Karagounis didn't stop worrying against Russia. Even when he had been substituted. From the time he was replaced in the 67th minute by Grigoris Makos, he refused to sit down and at the final whistle he run amok celebrating as if Greece had just won the Euros again.

A dream night. Sort of.