Euro 2012: Greece dash Russian hopes, Czechs progress


Greece on Saturday pulled off a shock 1-0 win to advance to the Euro 2012 knockout stages at the expense of opponents Russia while the Czech Republic beat Poland by the same score to win Group A and dump the co-hosts out of the tournament.

A goal two minutes into first half injury time by veteran Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis was all it took to take Fernando Santos' side through – and send the the 4,000-strong travelling Greece fans wild.

Euro 2004 winners Greece finish second in Group A ahead of Russia on the head to head rule while the Czech Republic ended up top with six points after Petr Jiracek scored the only goal of the game 18 minutes from time to beat the Poles in Wroclaw.

Russia, who had an estimated 20,000 fans in the National Stadium, finished an agonising third, with Poland propping up the table after two draws and a defeat.

In Warsaw, Dick Advocaat's Russia, with four points in the bag, had been favourites to qualify and needed just a draw to progress if the Czech Republic-Poland match ended with honours even.

But Russia found themselves a goal down after a defensive blunder from Sergei Ignashevich, who failed to get proper contact on a headert, allowing the ball to drop to Karagounis, who gratefully fired past Vyacheslav Malafeev.

Greece - likely to face Germany next - held on for the win but Panathinaikos midfielder Karagounis will miss the quarter-final after he was booked for diving in the Russian box.

In Wroclaw, Poland dominated the first half but were a different team in the second, with another mistake costing the home side dearly, ending their hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the European championships for the first time.

Lech Poznan midfielder Rafal Murawski tried to drive forward from midfield, as the Poles pushed for a win, but lost the ball with little cover behind him, allowing in Wolfsburg midfielder Petr Jiracek for the only goal on 72 minutes.

Croatia facing penalty

Elsewhere, Croatia were facing a possible stiff penalty after UEFA said it was taking action over racist chanting against Italy's Mario Balotelli during the two countries' Group C match in Poznan on Thursday.

A photographer and a UEFA-backed anti-racism group both said Balotelli was taunted throughout the match, which ended 1-1, while the photographer said he saw a steward pick up a banana from the pitch.

UEFA's Disciplinary and Control Board will discuss the case on Tuesday but the sanction is being watched closely given European football's frequent assertion that it has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on racism.

Croatia, already in the dock after missiles and fireworks were thrown in their match against Ireland, could face a heavy penalty, with Russia facing having six points docked from the Euro 2016 qualifying if their fans misbehave.

The Croatian Football Federation appealed for leniency and said it backed UEFA's efforts to stamp out anything that tarnishes the game's image, publicly distancing itself from and condemning ‘all deviant behaviour’.

"The Croatian Football Federation appeals to UEFA not to punish the Croatian national team... and not to associate it with a section of fans who actually are not supporters but hooligans who should be isolated from all sports events," it said.

UEFA has received two other complaints of alleged racist chanting, one also aimed at Balotelli, and is investigating. The European governing body and host nations have denied claims that far-right gangs are rife at their football grounds.

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