The opener – XII, Giorgios Karagounis

2004 remains the year in which European Football crowned its most surprisingly champion: Greece. After an outstanding tournament, in which they beat Portugal twice, France and Czech Republic, they lifted the trophy over their heads. But all started from the beginning of the competition when the hosts and big favourites, Portugal, were facing the unknown Greeks. Quite unknown was also Giorgios Karagounis, player under contract with Inter Milan at that time, but which appeared in very few games for the Italians. Also, at the national team he didn’t impress as he only scored twice. He was already 27. But his ‘anonymously’ ended after exactly seven minutes with a shot from 25 meters which shook the net between the posts of Ricardo. 1-0, than 2-0 after Basinas transformed a penalty obtained by Seitaridis and at the end Greece won 2-1. On 12th of June the fairytale started, with Karagounis in the main role, and ended on 4th of July, with Zagorakis, the captain, lifting the trophy above the head.

Very interesting is that Karagounis is one of the only three survivers from EURO 2004, alongside Katsouranis and Charisteas, the man which brought that trophy. Born on 6th of March 1977, Karagounis made his first appearance for Greece in 1998 and since then played 117 matches and put in 8 goals, including the one mentioned above. All until 3rd of June and if Giorgios plays in all three group matches he will equalize Zagorakis, becoming the most capped Greek player from the history. And his history has more chapters to expose as he also appeared at EURO 2008 and also at World Cup 2010, where he captained his national team in its first ever victory at a such competition: 2-1 against Nigeria.

A tremendous career for Karagounis with the national team, but at club level performances weren’t so many. The team at which he made the most appearances is Panathinaikos: 310 matches and 44 goals between 1998 – 2003 and 2007 – 2012, all of these after three years at youth level (1993-1996) and two at Apollon Smyrni. 10 years, but with only two trophies won!: a Championship and a Cup, both in 2010. Excepting this decade, Karagounis played also four seasons abroad, two at Inter Milan and two at Benfica Lisboa. He won an Italian Cup in 2005, but that was it all. The national team will remain forever his professional peak! And now, at EURO 2012, Greece plays once again in the opening encounter, against Poland. Will Karagounis become the first and probably only player to score the ‘openers’ in two different editions of the European Championship? He didn’t and he missed a penalty in this game, at the score of 1-1. It looked like that was the end for his perfect international career, but unexpectedly, Karagounis got the resources to continue and in the last group match, against Russia, his 120 for Greece, he put in the only goal that sealed a qualification to the quarter finals at which his country never even dream at. Unfortunately, in the same match he got booked – when he should receive a penalty instead – and couldn’t help his national side in the next phase, where Germany beat them 4-2.

Photo sources: military-photos.net, ligamistru-2003-2004.xf.cz, football-pictures.net

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