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Greece all but Czechs out of Euro 2012

By George Georgakopoulos

Greece harbors only mathematical hopes of advancing to the second round of the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine after losing 2-1 to the Czech Republic at Wroclaw on Tuesday due to a terrible start to the game that saw it trail 2-0 after just six minutes.

The national team tried to fight its way back in the second half and reduced the arrears eight minutes after the interval, but its supremacy in the last 40 minutes did not translate into any more goals that would have spared it defeat.

Just like in the game with Poland on Friday, Greece had a particularly slow start to the match and paid a price for its makeshift defense that lacked its mainstays, suspended Sokratis Papastathopoulos and injured Avraam Papadopoulos. Kyriakos Papadopoulos and defensive midfielder Costas Katsouranis tried to fill in, but the Czechs allowed them no grace period at the start and punished them heavily.

Greece fell behind from as early as two minutes and 10 seconds into the game as Petr Jiracek eluded Greek left-back Jose Holebas and slotted the ball past keeper Costas Chalkias for 1-0.

Three minutes later Theodore Gebre Selassie beat Holebas on the right to cross the ball into the box, Chalkias dived late and flapped the ball before Vaclav Pilar made it 2-0 from close range, with the Greek center backs being conspicuously absent.

Chalkias was substituted in the 22nd minute, as he seemed to have pulled a muscle on his right leg. Michalis Sifakis replaced him.

Greece's only goal attempt in the first half ended up in a headed goal by Giorgos Fotakis in the 41st minute but that was disallowed as the PAOK midfielder was flagged offside. The television replay indicated it was a touch-and-go decision.

The second half was an entirely different proposition for Greece. A seemingly easy-to-handle cross by Giorgos Samaras from the left was fumbled by Czech keeper Petr Cech, leaving the spoils to substitute Fanis Gekas who made no mistake from near the penalty spot in the 53rd minute.

Greece turned the screw on the Czech defense in the remainder of the second half, seeking to capitalize on the frailties that the Czechs had displayed in the match against Russia four days earlier.

Coach Fernando Santos added forward Costas Mitroglou to his striking force later on, but the Czech defense held on as the Greeks lacked ideas about how to penetrate it effectively.

With just one point from two matches, Greece sits at the bottom of Group A. The last group game for Greece is on Saturday against Russia in Warsaw.

ekathimerini.com , Tuesday June 12, 2012 (21:09)  
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