Published November 20, 2014
Greece has just one win in 11 group games in Euro finals all-time, but the 2004 champion could return to knockout play with a win - its first in Euro 2012 - against Russia on Saturday.
Greece defeated Portugal in its group opener eight years ago, making a tie and a loss - against Russia - enough to advance to the final eight on a tiebreaker over Spain. It then won three straight 1-0 matches to win the title.
The Greeks have just one point from their first two matches in Group A, but it could rise from the bottom of the group and secure a knockout berth with a win against the Russians.
"We have only a slight chance," Greece coach Fernando Santos said, "but there is still hope."
Greece secured a 1-1 draw against Poland in its opener, when it played down a man for a spell, but also saw Giorgos Karagounis miss a penalty kick. It lost its second match, 2-1, to the Czech Republic.
The Czechs scored twice inside six minutes, and a defensive mistake gifted the Greeks their lone goal through Theofanis Gekas in the second half.
"Unfortunately, these first few minutes of the first half were really costly," Santos said.
The Greeks were without two players in the heart of its defense, as suspended Sokratis Papastathopoulos and injured Avraam Papadopoulos missed the game, and that proved costly early when the Czechs grabbed both goals.
But otherwise, Greece was on a more level playing field, although it is tough to judge just how much the Czech Republic let up with the two-goal cushion.
Greece will not have that option against Russia, as a victory is the only way to reach the quarterfinals.
Russia downed the Czech Republic, 4-1, in its first game and tied Poland, 1-1, in its second, and leads the group with four points. It would have secured its place atop the standings with a win over Poland, and can do the same Saturday.
Alan Dzagoev has been the scoring star so far with three goals, while Andrei Arshavin has three assists for the Russians.
"I don't want to talk about individuals. Alan Dzagoev is a good player, sure, and he scored, but we all need to be equally good in the next game," Russian coach Dick Advocaat said. "For me, Russia are the best team in the tournament so far in terms of the way we have played."
As the favorite to win the group, Russia will be under pressure to finish off the stage on a high note. But Greece has showed in the past, it can never be counted out.