Greece gung-ho ahead of Russia crunch

Jun 16, 2012 - 10:44
  • Group A stragglers Greece on Friday brushed off their underdog image ahead of their do or die match with leaders Russia which could seal their fate at Euro 2012 on Saturday. PHOTO/ AFP

Group A stragglers Greece on Friday brushed off their underdog image ahead of their do or die match with leaders Russia which could seal their fate at Euro 2012 on Saturday.

"Our team must respect its opponent, but never fear anyone," their Portuguese coach Fernando Santos said at an eve of match press conference.

"I really believe in my team, I really believe in the work we have done, I really believe we are capable of delivering and that we will do it."

The Russians made a big impression by inflicting a 4-1 defeat on the Czech Republic last week, but were pegged back by co-hosts Poland in a 1-1 draw on Tuesday.

Being Russia's last group opponents is an advantage, said Santos, whose side drew 1-1 with Poland in their opening game and lost 2-1 to the Czechs this week.

"We know how the Russians play their game," he said, underlining that Greece's adversaries were attack-minded and possession-focussed.

"We'll see nothing different. Top teams do not change their philosophy. They do not change their game play."

"They way they play is crystal clear to us and it's up to us to find a way to eliminate their strengths," added Santos, who took the helm in 2010, succeeding German Otto Rehhagel who during a decade in charge steered Greece to the title at Euro 2004.

Greece know they are not masters of their fate, even if they beat Russia.

Russia, who will qualify for the quarter-finals if they draw, currently sit top of the group on four points, while the Czechs have three, Poland two and Greece one.

In the night's other match, between the Czech Republic and Poland in the southwestern city of Wroclaw, a win for either would sink Greek hopes.

But Greece showed their fighting spirit in the Poland game.

After Poland scored early on, the Greeks were left reeling when Werder Bremen defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off shortly before half-time.

But after returning from the dressing room, the 10-man Greeks battled back, equalising within six minutes and only narrowly failing to win after Poland saved a penalty.

Having served a one-match suspension, Papastathopoulos can return against Russia.

"I think this is probably the most important match we've played in the past few years and probably the most important in this tournament. We're 100% prepared for a win," he said.

"This underdog or outsider image is not something we're interested in. We don't care about that label. It's just 90 minutes, and in those 90 minutes, everything will be decided.

"We've managed to win crucial matches before and we hope the same is going to happen".

His comments were echoed by Samsunspor striker Fanis Gekas.

"We have proven in the past that when it comes to difficult games, we can deliver, that we are disciplined enough and can achieve what we want," he said.

Russia and Greece have met 21 times, with 13 Russian victories, three for the Greeks and five draws.

Their last competitive fixture was at Euro 2008, where Russia won 1-0 in the group stage, though they drew 1-1 in their most recent meeting, a November 2011 friendly.

"History doesn't play a role. Our match is a different game for each team," said Santos.

"We truly believe in our abilities and that we will be the ones celebrating at the end."

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