Greeks around the world went into a frenzy on Wednesday night when striker Giorgos Samaras scored a last-minute penalty and hurled the national team into the final 16 of the World Cup in Brazil.
Depressed from an austerity-driven economic recovery that has affected almost every household in Greece, the nation went into a delirium of celebration that lasted well into the night as the football squad beat Ivory Coast 2-1, with Greece facing Costa Rica in the next round at 11pm on Sunday (Greece/Cyprus time).
Fans in white-and-blue poured onto the streets of all cities and towns in Greece, as well as Cyprus, while the Greek diaspora from the U.S. to Australia celebrated the team’s first-ever qualification into this round.
President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras sent messages of congratulations to the team and officials saying they made the whole nation proud.
Naturally, all front-page headlines of the Thursday Greek press was dominated with the football victory news, while economist Nick Malkoutzis wrote on MacroPolis.gr: “Samaras shoots, Samaras scores!”
“Samaras rescues Greece” – it’s the headline the prime minister and many in his office would have cherished. But Giorgos Samaras, the striker without a club, has beaten premier Antonis to the title of saviour thanks to his injury time penalty on Wednesday, which ushered Greece into the second round of the World Cup for the first time in its history, Malkoutzis wrote.
Not since Greece created the biggest upset in world football by winning the European Championships in 2004, have Greeks poured onto the streets of central Athens to celebrate. There used to be a time when political leaders could generate large crowds of flag wavers but they could only dream of party rallies generating the same kind of enthusiasm as Greece’s 2-1 win over Ivory Coast.
However, nobody is under the illusion that in a country still struggling to overcome its biggest economic crisis since the Second World War a significant sporting achievement can provide anything more than a temporary release. Qualifying from the group stages of the World Cup does not mean leaving behind the deep problems afflicting Greece’s society and economy. Samaras (the striker) acknowledged as much in his post-game comments. “I hope we provided our compatriots with joy, even if it’s a little joy, with this win,” he said.
Read the full story http://www.macropolis.gr/?i=portal.en.the-agora.1319&itemId=1319
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