Greece took a huge step towards automatic qualification with Friday's win over Croatia yet Fernando Santos says it will count for nothing if they do not get the point they need in Georgia.
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Unbeaten in 15 matches under Fernando Santos, Greece require just a point in Georgia to qualify for UEFA EURO 2012 yet despite an impressive campaign, their coach insists "we haven't achieved anything yet".
Friday's 2-0 home win against Croatia put Greece in the box seat in Group F. They leapfrogged Slaven Bilić's side and hold a two-point lead ahead of their final qualifier on Tuesday. As satisfying as that victory was for Santos, the Portuguese is urging his players and the fans to keep the champagne on ice.
"We made a successful first step towards the finals with our victory," said Santos, who turned 57 on Monday. "However, we need to concentrate on the away match against Georgia.
We are happy but we haven't achieved anything yet."
Avoid defeat and Greece not only qualify automatically, but will also go a record 16th consecutive game without losing – a streak that began with Santos' first match at the helm, the 1-0 friendly triumph over Serbia in Belgrade on 11 August 2010. It is a run that does not surprise captain Giorgos Karagounis.
"This statistic is no fluke," the Panathinaikos FC midfielder said. "
We are unbeaten in 15 matches because the team has personality and is devoted to the task. We are patient, we wait for opponents to make a mistake and we take advantage. After that, we are able to protect the result. When we score, we make it almost impossible for our rivals to strike back."
After a steady start to their own qualifying bid – including an opening 1-1 draw in Piraeus – Georgia have fallen off the Group F pace. Karagounis is not resting on his laurels against Temuri Ketsbaia's team, though. "Georgia are a good team and their coach knows Greek football. It's very important for us to qualify for a third straight EURO. The win against Croatia will count only if we achieve our goal in Georgia."
Santos will be without the suspended Avraam Papadopoulos, Giannis Zaradoukas and Giorgos Samaras, who scored the opener on Friday, while Vassilis Torossidis sustained a rib injury in the same game. However, FC Schalke 04 centre-half Kyriakos Papadopoulos should start after a ban while PAOK FC defender Stelios Malezas and Atromitos FC right-back Giannis Skondras have been called up.
Initially drafted in the Under-21 squad, Skondras receives his first nod from the senior coach. "It was a nice surprise and I am delighted to get the call. I am leaving a tight-knit family, the U21s, to join another tight-knit group, the seniors. We have a great opportunity to celebrate qualification by giving a clever and committed performance in Georgia."