HIDDEN TREASURES:Giorgos Karagounis

There is a quote from former Cameroon star Roger Milla which says a lot about football’s ability to unite a nation: “Football is what makes small countries big.” It is through the magic of the beautiful game that a single player can catapult his homeland into the global arena.

Because they were born in ‘small countries,’ some great players never had the opportunity to play international football on the world’s greatest stages. Others made light of their country’s minnow status to help carry their national side into major tournaments. From Artjoms Rudnevs to George Weah, Football24/7 sets off on a world tour of small countries with big names.

Greece spent most of their history in relative obscurity, having participated only twice in the final tournaments of the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship, in 1994 and 1980 respectively, until UEFA Euro 2004, when Greece became European champions in only their second participation in the tournament.Nations like Macedonia,Malta,Cyprus,Greece have no football history but they have been able to produce some outstanding footballers.

 Winner 

””It was a special night for us,” he said. “The awards made it special and then came this victory after a hard-fought match. We are all happy and proud.”.- Giorgos Karagounis before EURO 2012 qualifier with Croatia
Pyrgos –born Giorgos Karagounis (35) is his country’s joint most capped player with 120 caps, together with Theodoros Zagorakis.The Fulham man is a legendary figure at Athens club Panathinaikos FC, where he has spent the bulk of his career.
Greece skipper Georgios Karagounis will be remembered for scoring the opening goal at EURO 2004 against Portugal,a game the eventual champions won 2-1 against Portugal.He was suspended for the final against the same opponents three weeks later as Greece captured the European title in Lisbon.He also scored the only goal of the game against Russia as Greece qualified for the quarter finals of EURO 2012 but received his second yellow card of the tournament causing him to miss the quarterfinals.He has scored 9 goals for his national side.
The midfielder has collected an impressive array of honours during his career at the top. Aside from being part of the team that won UEFA EURO 2004, he has also won Greek league twice and cup winners’ medals with Panathinaikos, and won the Coppa Italia with Inter Milan in 2005 and a Portuguese Super Cup with Benfica.

ηγέτης (Leader)
Karagounis started his professional career as an 18-year-old with Panathinaikos in 1995. He moved to Apollon Smirnis in 1996, where he would turn in some fine displays over the next two years.Pana brought him back to Athens  in 1998 where he became a key player for the Greens.

Though he did not win a major domestic honour with the Greens over the next five years, he shone for the club in the UEFA Champions League in the 2000/2001 and 2001/02 seasons.He has a good record against English sides scoring a memorable goal from a  free-kick against Manchester United and later he scored against Arsenal.The veteran  can strike the ball from distance and is deadly from set-pieces, as he showed against Manchester United in the group phase of the 2000/01 UEFA Champions League.

He was the captain of the Greece side that finished runners-up to Spain at the 1998 UEFA Under-21 Championship, he made his senior debut the following year, against El Salvador, and soon became a regular in Otto Rehhagel’s side.

Journey man

Inter Milan lured him away in 2003, becoming only the second Greek to play for the Italian club (after Grigoris Georgatos). He featured rarely for the Nerazzurri.

After two years at the San Siro he moved on to Benfica for another two seasons.He helped  Fernando Santos team as they reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals.The following season, he rejoined Panathinaikos. Pulling on the captain’s armband, Karagounis inspired his side to the Greek Super League title in his first season back, taking to two the number of championships he has won with Pana.

Karagounis joined Fulham on a free transfer until the end of the season after being released by Panathinaikos this summer.

He has remained a consistent performer for his country, starting every one of Greece’s 12 qualifying matches for UEFA EURO 2008, scoring both goals in a March 2008 friendly against Portugal (2-1) and featuring regularly at the finals in Austria and Switzerland.He also captained Greece  at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, their second appearance at the world finals.

Recognition

Karagounis received his commemorative cap and medal from UEFA to mark his century of international appearances before he captained Greece to a 2-0 victory against Croatia on 7 October 2011.

Fernando Santos’ Ethniki will be competing with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania, Slovakia, Latvia and  Liechtenstein in Group G for a place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Greece have kept a 100% in the World Cup Qualifiers after winning their first 2 games against Latvia and Lithuania without their skipper.Karagounis has been recalled by Santos for Greece’s next two crucial qualifiers against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovakia on 12th and 16th October respectively.The Fulham midfielder is the man who is currently leading Greece to reach the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.Brazil 2014 will be the best way for Karagounis to end his international career.

But perhaps we’ve forgotten some big names? Do you know of other hidden treasures? Leave us your thoughts by adding a comment.

 

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