This writer has a confession to make:
For all of you who have read my first three blogs about Greece, you may very well have concluded that I was expecting to write a final piece today, that ended my brief reporting career for Euro12. My introduction indeed sent out that message, as I predicted my new role might last about eight days, eight years after this teams most memorable achievement. The theme of the blogs is about a tragedy, so you would have been forgiven for thinking that this writer had set you up for an inevitable tragic end when Greece left the tournament tonight.
Here is my confession, the majority of Greek tragedy’s actually have a happy ending, read up on your Greek literature and you will discover that 75% of them, about the amount of possession the Russians had tonight, end up with the hero overcoming his flaws and surviving to live another day. In fact if the Russians had scored an injury time equaliser tonight, they would have gone against the majority of Greek finishes and a real tragedy would have ensued.
I promised in Act Two to tell you the outcome of Orestes., the Hero in the only surviving Greek trilogy. Interestingly poised after Act Two with the hero accused of murder and trying to avoid capture, Orestes not unlike the national football team after their Act Two against the Czech Republic was facing doom and probable elimination from the game.
Well again I may have miss-led you, Orestes was captured but in a remarkable trial which saw twelve judges split their decision, Orestes was acquitted and went on to live a mildly more sedate life.
Orestes may have had a remarkable result but surely not as remarkable as the end to this football trilogy of Euro12 for the National Greek side. Even knowing that Greek tragedies normally turn out well, this was still a surprise to everyone and as we have witnessed in all the previous Acts, the elements of a good tragedy were there once again to keep us all on the edge of our seats.
We now have our third hero, who else was going to play the starring role in Act Three than Greek legend and captain Giorgos Karagounis. He played a part in nearly all the elements of the tragedy tonight in two scenes that were the backdrop to this memorable night.
Forty six minutes on the clock, we are all waiting for the whistle so we can have our half time refreshment following a first half that no-one will remember. Then Russian calamity, Yuri Zhirkov, head already in the dressing room somehow managed to use the same body part to flick a throw directly into the path of our hero Karagounis. The ageing skipper, dragged his tired limbs into the box with the ball and fired it passed the Russian keeper to give Greece the lead against all the odds and expectations from the first half display.
Honour & Fate
Sixty minutes on the clock, mainly Russian offensive play in the second half, until a sleek Greek move started by Samaras who had his most effective Act so far in this tournament, saw hero Karagounis ploughing his way into the Russian box only to be tripped and the expected penalty was sure to put Greece out of sight. Referee Mr Eriksson saw it differently though and had the temerity to book hero Karagounis for a dive! Never in Greek tragedy history did a man show how his honour had been subjected to such ridicule than our hero. Karagounis looked to all the Greek gods for some kind of answer and when the honour had just about been kept in check, you saw the realisation of the fate enter the Act, all over his face.
Giorgos Karagounis, legend, captain, hero and the proud owner of 120 caps knew that victory tonight would inevitably mean another cap, number 121 in the Quarter Final, a record broken and some compensation for missing the Euro 2004 Final through suspension. Yet that yellow card, booked for diving would now cost him that honour, and who knows if he will get another chance, as International football comes harder on those tired Greek legs.
It was only five minutes later when our hero exited the stage, the Greek coach Fernando Santos deciding he didn’t want Karagounis up for the same charge as Orestes and substituted our hero before referee Eriksson had the curse of Orestes passed on to him.
Seventy minutes and a little more fate as Tzavelas hits the bar from a free kick, which in turn subjected the Greece team to twenty minutes of sheer suspense. This suspense was made even more eventful by a Czech Republic goal one minute later which the Russian fans greeted with despair, knowing that their team were going home if the situation didn’t change.
In the end the Greek defence held out, if the country could survive with the same kind of austerity thrown at them from the Russians as they need to avoid total economic collapse, then the Greek vote wouldn’t be needed tomorrow. The result does mean though that a few thousand Greeks will now not be voting, they will surely remain at Euro12 for the Quarter Finals. Remarkable result by a remarkable football nation.
Our hero’s have carried the flaw that all good tragedies need. In the case of the Greek football team it has been their inability to score goals. Maybe though having managed to come out of this group with just three goals, we should now put this flaw to rest. They won the tournament in 2004 only scoring seven goals, so it could be we just have to live with the flaw, except it and hope that the solid defence shown tonight will be enough to see Greece go further in the competition. With Maniatis just in front of the back four, this new tactic could be the solid base we need to go further.
Change of Fortune
It could be argued that the change of fortune required for Act Three happened away from this game, as in Act Two. This time not on another football pitch but in the offices of U.E.F.A. For once the meddling of rules by this football authority have helped in the case of our Greek hero’s progress to the Quarter Finals. Where else though would the final positions of a Qualification Group not first be decided by points, then goal difference, then head to head games. This change of rule meant elimination for Russia, progression for the Greeks, but bewildering for everybody who knows anything about football.
I now have to introduce you to a Satyr Play. With our Greek trilogy over and the unexpected extension of this writers Euro12 campaign, we are going to focus on the next instalment of a Greek tragedy.
In Anthenian Dionysia( Athens festival) each playwright customarily entered four plays into any competition, three tragedies and one satyr play, normally to be performed at the end of the festival, following the trilogy of tragedies. It was an attempt to add some spirited entertainment, comic relief after the sometimes gloomy tragedies. Some may say the Satyr has already been played out after tonight’s events, but what we can now look forward too is a performance that will include comedy, drunkenness, brazen sexuality, pranks, sight gags, and general merriment!
With the Greeks being involved absolutely anything can happen but with a script like that to look forward too, who is not going to tune in for the next instalment of Euro12 Greek Tragedy?
Finally in the continued words of our friend Aristotle:
A tragedy is a representation of an action that is whole and complete and of a certain magnitude. A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end.
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