The Ethniki soaked up plenty of pressure throughout the match and exploited one defensive lapse from the Russians that ended up costing them their place in the tournament.There were echoes of Greece's Euro 2004-winning campaign as the 2012 version advanced to the quarterfinals with a pragmatic display that ended in a 1-0 win over Russia, which suffered elimination as Czech Republic defeated co-host Poland in Group A's other game.
Despite being under pressure for large parts of the game the Greeks took the lead in first-half stoppage time as Giorgios Karagounis punished some sloppy defending. The team remained resolute in defense throughout the second half to secure a famous victory.
The Ethniki came into the game knowing they needed a win to ensure qualification and they were the first to pull a save from the opposing keeper. Karagounis' near-post delivery was flicked on target by Kostas Katsouranis but a fully-stretched Vyacheslav Malafeev clawed the ball away.
Russia responded positively and three minutes later Alan Dzagoev broke in from the right following a quick throw. Andrey Arshavin got on the end of his cross 10 yards from goal and Michalis Sifakis was forced to parry the ball away.
Dick Advocaat's side was in the ascendancy and had two great chances to go ahead. Firstly, Aleksandr Kerzhakov failed in his quest to get his first shot of the tournament on target as his volley bent agonizingly wide of the far post. Then, moments later, Yury Zhirkov's cutback for Dzagoev was intercepted by Katsouranis.
By the half-hour mark the Russians had taken control of the match but were more often than not being restricted to shooting from range. Yet when in possession the Greeks lacked ambition and committed minimal numbers to their attacks.
Zhirkov fired over five minutes before the break but Fernando Santos' side held out and in stoppage time Karagounis fired Greece into a surprise lead. A misplaced header by Sergey Ignashevich was capitalized on by the 35-year-old who capped his 120th international appearance, equaling the country's all-time record, by surging into the area and slamming a low shot underneath Malafeev.
Roman Pavlyuchenko replaced the profligate Kerzhakov at halftime but Russia continued to struggle against the resilient Ethniki defense. With space limited in the final third Igor Denisov plumped for an effort from distance only to see it swing wide.
Greece remained a threat on the counterattack and after Aleksandr Anyukov somehow cleared Vasilis Torosidis' cross away from inside the six-yard box, Karagounis received booking that will keep him out of the next match for diving in the area though it looked like a certain penalty.
Santos signaled his intent to see out the game with the solitary goal by replacing striker Theofanis Gekas with left back Jose Holebas 25 minutes from time. But the Ethniki almost extended their lead in the 70th minute when Gergios Tzavellas' beautifully struck free kick rattled the frame of the goal.
In desperation to find an equalizer Advocaat's side became extremely disjointed and another long-range attempt from Denisov was saved by Sifakis. With five minutes of normal time remaining Dzagoev came close to restoring parity but his header from Arshavin's cross shaded the outside of the post.
It is a result that turned Group A on its head as despite having topped the group before kickoff Russia crashed out. The win for Czech Republic put it into the quarterfinals as group winner with Greece following through in second position ahead of Russia and Poland respectively.
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