Friday, 19 October 2007

Nenikikamen… again

Nenikikamen – we have won – is what the exhausted messenger Phidippides declared with his dying breath to the Athenians after running from Marathon to Athens to report the defeat of the Persians in 490 BC.

And nenikikamen was the word on every Greek’s lips after Greece beat Portugal 1-0 to become European football champions in 2004.

Nenikikamen is also what we said when Greece became European basketball champions in 2005, crushing Germany 78-62 in the final; and nenikikamen is what we shouted when Greece defeated the USA 101-95 in the semi-final of the 2006 World basketball championships.

And on Wednesday night, nenikikamen again; in Constantinople, defeating Turkey 1-0 (video above) to qualify for the Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland, where we will defend our title.

It was sweet that Greece ensured its qualification in Constantinople, that the wrong of the 4-1 defeat to Turkey in Athens earlier in the campaign was righted and Wednesday night’s win dealt a serious blow to Turkey’s own hopes of getting to Euro 2008 – Norway are now favourites to take the second qualification spot in Greece’s group; but we shouldn’t gloat or overdo the pride. This is a matter of football – sport – not national salvation.

Just like the 4-1 defeat was not a rerun of 1453 or 1922, so Wednesday night’s 1-0 victory did not constitute another 1821 or 1912. Yiannis Amanatidis – scorer of the Greek winner – is not Theodore Kolokotronis driving the Turks out of the Morea or Crown Prince Constantine riding into liberated Thessaloniki on his white horse.

A mention too for Cyprus. Cyprus is not going to Switzerland and Austria for Euro 2008 – Cyprus currently lies fourth in Group D – but its qualification campaign has been a resounding success.

Having already crushed Ireland 5-2 and drawn 1-1 with Germany – Germany are probably the strongest team in Europe at the moment – Cyprus, last Saturday, defeated Wales 3-1, while on Wednesday the lads drew 1-1 with Ireland in Dublin.

Indeed, Ireland only managed to equalise Stelios Okkarides’ header in the second minute of injury time – depriving Cyprus of what would have been only its third away victory in competitive matches – the other two wins were against San Marino and Malta.


Stavros said...

Bravo ta paidia mas and kudos to the Turkish spectators for their sportsmanlike behavior despite losing such an important game.

john akritas said...

Yes, the Turks must also know that it was a football match not 1821 or 1922 – and that Greece outplayed Turkey throughout the match and should have won by more. Greece’s record in the qualifying group is 8-1-1, which is superb, so well done to the lads and to the coach Otto Rehhagel. It wasn’t that long ago when Greece were embarrassing no hopers in international football.

Hermes said...

What is encouraging is that Greece - since Rehagel - is now scoring goals from behind and in the last 20 minutes of a game. Before Rehagel it was inconceivable that we would score even when we went down 1-0 after the first 5 minutes. This is the result of systematic training, persistence and less reliance on stars increasing the risk of prima donnas ruining team spirit.

It is a pity two Greek teams are not in Euro 2008.

Lastly, it is also encouraging England might not make it. Hooray!

john akritas said...

Just on individual ability, not one player from the Greek team would get anywhere close to playing for England – or France, Italy, Spain. But what distinguishes our football team recently – and our basketball team down the years – is heart, intelligence, discipline and unity of purpose. This is why Greece has qualified so well for Euro 2008 – only Romania and Croatia have qualified as well as Greece – and why England – with all that talent at their disposal – have made a pig’s ear of it.

As for two Greek teams, even better would be a united Greek national football team which Cypriots were eligible to play for. I’m sure this will happen in the future. In the 1960s Cypriot club sides played in the Greek leagues.