Former Fulham midfielder, Giorgos Karagounis has retired from international football with immediate effect, after captaining Greece to a second round exit at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
A penalty shootout defeat signalled the end of a long and illustrious international career for the midfielder. He made up a core of experienced veterans in the Greece side that were eliminated by Costa Rica on Sunday night. And, at 37 years of age, we have seen Karagounis in the royal blue of his country’s kit for the last time.
The seasoned midfielder’s games on the world stage often defied expectation, as Greece continued to punch above their weight since the turn of the millennium.
In 2004, they beat host nation, Portugal, in the final of the European Championships – a 1-0 victory was assured by an Angelos Charisteas header. Karagounis received a winners’ medal for his role in the tournament, and has remained in the national side ever since.
The former Inter Milan player made his international debut against El Salvador in 1999, and he went on to win a record number of 139 caps for Greece, scoring 10 times in the process.
Appearances followed at the 2005 Confederations Cup, Euro 2008 and 2012, and the last two World Cups – held in South Africa and Brazil respectively.
Whilst playing at Euro 2012, Karagounis became the joint-highest Greek appearance holder, drawing level with Theodoros Zagorakis on 120 caps. The diminutive ball-winner had a telling intervention in that group game with Russia; he scored the only goal of the game to send Greece through the knockout stages, but he missed the quarter final through suspension after picking up a yellow card for an alleged dive.
And the Euro 2004 victor missed out on another last eight tie in Brazil as his side failed to make it past Costa Rica.
Defying the odds
Nevertheless, the Mediterranean nation have still enjoyed their best ever World Cup in 2014. After losing comprehensively to Colombia in their opening group game, they recovered to qualify with four points. The first of those was achieved against Japan, in a game where they spent a lot of time with 10 men.
An early red card meant that they defended for their lives to earn a point. That was followed by a shock 2-1 win over Ivory Coast, made possible by a stoppage time Georgios Samaras penalty.
Despite leading Greece to their best ever World Cup performance, Karagounis was considerate in his conduct, stepping away from the world stage to make way for his younger compatriots. The mature midfielder’s attention will now be drawn towards finding a new club with which to head into the upcoming club season.
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