As good as 2004 for Greeks

The Greece team celebrate their qualification.
The Greece team celebrate their qualification. Photo: PA

Giorgios Karagounis hailed Greece's against-the-odds qualification for the European Championship quarter-finals as being as good as winning the title in 2004.

Matchwinner Karagounis also dedicated the 1-0 victory over Russia to those suffering in his debt-ridden country and launched a stinging attack on referees at Euro 2012.

Greece rekindled the spirit of eight years ago this evening to turn Group A on its head and reach the knockout stage.

And Karagounis - one of the heroes of their shock Euro 2004 triumph - said: "Today's saga is something comparable to what happened in Portugal.

"We are a new team - a renewed team - and we managed to qualify against everything. I really mean that.

"It's not something that I was the only one to witness. That's why the value of this qualification is great.

"I can say that we managed to overcome huge obstacles."

Those obstacles included the controversial sending-off of Sokratis Papastathopoulos in their opening game against Poland, Karagounis' missed penalty in the same game and a disallowed goal that should have been allowed to stand against eventual group winners Czech Republic.

There was more to decry tonight, with Karagounis denied a blatant penalty and instead booked for diving to rule him out of the quarter-finals.

The veteran midfielder, who earned a national record-equalling 120th cap tonight, said: "You have all seen what happened since the first match.

"Our team could have had, let's say, seven points.

"In general, all refereeing calls were against our team.

"Everyone who's involved in the team, they have to be congratulated for what they achieved."

He added: "We had all the soul and the heart that are the ingredients of our team.

"We have proven the character of this team.

"We played just for one result.

"It was the third match away despite the fact that our supporters made us feel really emotional.

"We managed to give joy to all Greeks all over the world."

The Greek economy has been in turmoil for some time and Karagounis said: "When we left Greece, we all said in one voice, 'We will give everything'.

"I believe this, tonight, puts a smile on their faces.

"It's not just about qualifying, it's about the way you get this qualification.

"We're happy we managed to do that for the Greeks, for our country, for the Greeks all over the world."

Players cannot appeal yellow cards but head coach Fernando Santos said he would "think about" lobbying UEFA.

Portuguese Santos refused to be drawn further on the latest refereeing controversy to hit his side.

Defeat saw Russia crash out of the tournament nine days after winning their opening game 4-1.

Head coach Dick Advocaat struggled to come to terms with what was his final game in charge being branded a failure, reacting angrily to suggestions his side played badly.

The PSV Eindhoven-bound boss said: "I think we played quite well. We went forward and the other team just defended.

"So, don't say that we didn't play well today.

"It's true that we conceded a goal and we simply didn't put away our chances.

"But in the first half I think we played really well. And, in the second half, against a team like Greece, with all respect, it was hard to play against.

"It's not that we didn't play well.

"If you say that, I don't think you watched the game well."

Asked how he thought Russia fans would remember his two years in charge, he said: "I'm not really too interested in what others say about me.

"We were undefeated for 16 games and it was unfortunate.

"We should've won but that wasn't the case.

"They were leading 1-0 after the half and they are just masters at doing what they did today.

"We didn't maybe have that sharpness tonight to make that goal.

"It didn't happen today and it's hard to say why.

"We had two strikers, we had three strikers up front and it just didn't work."