Wroclaw, June 11
Greece hope that a repetition of the fighting spirit that saw them come from behind to draw 1-1 with Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland in the opening match will be enough to beat the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
Victory in itself would not guarantee the Greeks a place in the last eight -- even if group leaders Russia defeat Poland in the day’s other match -- but it would end Czech hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals.
Greece’s never-say-die attitude is reminiscent of their style at Euro 2004, when they effectively ground their more flamboyant opponents into submission.
But it has been strengthened by a desire to deliver some much-needed joy to their hard-pressed compatriots back home, who are wilting under horrendous financial hardship.
The Czechs by contrast will be looking to bounce back from their opening 4-1 drubbing by Russia and also avenge their Euro 2004 semi-final defeat by the Greeks, who shocked everyone by going on to win the tournament.
The Greeks will be without their first-choice central defensive pairing of Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who is suspended after his harsh sending-off in the Poland match, and Avraam Papadopoulos, who has torn cruciate ligaments.
But, whilst the lively Czech attack will be hoping to exploit defensive weaknesses, the Greek forwards, too, will be looking to expose their opponents’ defensive failings, which were brutally exposed by the Russians.
In some quarters, the Greeks were criticised for letting three points slip from their grasp, as captain Giorgos Karagounis had a penalty saved.
Experienced striker Giorgos Samaras, though, said such is the spirit in the camp that the roof could cave in and they would still summon up the spirit to dig themselves out.
"We never give up and because we never give up, we don’t like to lose games. And that’s something you cannot buy or find. It’s all about the mentality in the dressing room," said the Celtic striker.
Fighting spirit is all very well when you are down but Greece’s Portuguese coach Fernando Santos says that shouldn’t be needed if his side get off to the punchy start that was missing from their display on Friday.
"I will talk to my players and see if they know what went wrong and why they couldn’t play as we had planned," said Santos, who replaced veteran German and Euro 2004 hero Otto Rehhagel after the first round exit at the 2010 World Cup finals.
"I’ve written all the mistakes they made on a big board, under the heading ‘What we should avoid’."
Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech -- who with Tomas Rosicky and a clearly under-par Milan Baros remain from the flair-filled side of Euro 2004 -- believes that not too much should be read into the Russian defeat.
"The first game sometimes shows what the group will be like but it’s not the key one, the crucial game will be the second one (against Greece). If we fail in that one, our chances of advancing will be very thin.
"A 4-1 defeat doesn’t look the best but it’s basically the same as 1-0 -- you simply get no points.
"We lost a battle, not the war. The good thing is we still have 180 minutes to advance. We have to look ahead, that’s what matters now.
"After all, we struggled throughout the qualification. I believe we’ll make it again," said Cech, who got over the defeat by playing drums with a Czech rock band at Sunday’s concert in Wroclaw, the Czech team’s home in southern Poland.