Greek resistance produces unlikely Russian tragedy
Following Russia’s dominant display on match day one of the 2012 European Championships, where they defeated Czech Republic 4-1, Dutch coach Dick Advocaat boldly stated he boasted the best team in the competition.
One game later, the Russians cruised through to the quarter finals, despite a sub-par performance against Poland, needing only a draw.
Enter the Greeks.
Many will instantly draw similarities with the miraculous 2004 campaign, with a final group-stage hit-out against Russia and the ever-present figure of Georgos Karagounis.
In 2004, a 2-0 loss to Russian was still enough to get the Greeks through to the quarter finals.
However, last night they were playing for a win – for their campaign and for their country.
Football fans around the world may be somewhat disappointed to see Russia bow out at the hands of the Greeks.
The attacking flair they showed throughout their qualifications and international friendlies made for very exciting football.
A potential match-up against the likes of Holland or Germany could have made a football enthusiasts salivate.
Maybe that is what they needed to bring out their best football – the likes of an Italy, Spain or Holland.
Touted as a ‘lucky’ or ‘favourable’ group draw may have ultimately knocked the Russians out.
There will be many questions of the team, particularly from the Russian media about what happened and who is to blame.
After the Czech domination, where most of the world took note of a potential new force in football, perhaps the pressure became too much.
Maybe overconfidence was an issue.
Players and coach alike will be analysed and criticised.
The Russian captain may be first in line for scrutiny, with ‘lazy’ and ‘scrappy’ displays likened to the same criticism that ultimately saw him lose his spot at Arsenal.
Had Aleksandr Kerzhakov been more clinical in front of goal, things could have been very different.
Likewise, if Advocaat had started with Roman Pavlyuchenko, could this have provided the finishes that went astray?
Football can always seem unfair to the most stout of fans, where the most skilled or (arguably) exciting teams don’t always go as far as they possibly should.
However, this is the ultimate bittersweet tale that is the ‘beautiful game’.
Passion, fire and heart are all traits the Greeks showed in both 2004 and this morning’s game.
It brings about the same underdog story that grabs the interest and support of new football fans.
Even if it is temporary support of the game, maybe these results are not such a bad thing for world football.
Budweiser Hosts the FIFA World Cup Draw: London
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