Edited by Kurt Kessler in 2015
Central Midfielder, #14, 36 Years Old
Team Overview: Greece is slated to face Japan, Cote d’Ivoire, and Columbia (Group C) in the first stages of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Greece put up an astonishing 25 points in 10 qualifying games, which would have been enough to make them winners of 5 other groups. However, they lost to Bosnia-Herzegovina and had to go to a play-off. In the playoffs they had to face Romania. Although Romania is very talented and experienced, Greece had a 3-1 win at home, and a 1-1 draw at Bucharest which let them qualify for the 2014 World Cup. In the past, the best tournament for the Greek national team was their success in EURO 2004 in Portugal, however they have not been able to put it all together for a World Cup. In the 1994 tournament, they left with no goals scored and no points and were swept out of the tournament. In the last World Cup in South Africa, they managed to win a single game against Nigeria, but lost the next two games to quickly exit the tournament. They are coached by Fernando Santos.
Giorgos Karagounis (born March 6, 1977 in Pyrgos, Greece; age 36) is a Greek native who currently plays in the Premier League for Fulham FC. Karagounis is a midfielder that is short in stature, standing at only 5 feet 9 inches, but he is known for his tough, gritty play on the field. He gains many comparisons to “The General”, Mimis Domazos. Domazos is a retired Greek player that is widely regarded as one of the best football player in the history of Greece. He was known for his dribbling, and creative passing, especially the accuracy of his long passes. These are the same attributes that Karagounis has as a player. Karagounis has been described as a “dogged worker in the midfield and a deliverer of fine set plays”.
He started playing professional football in 1996 when he signed with Apollon Smyris FC in Athens, Greece. After a couple years with Apollon, Karagounis signed with Panathinaikos where he played for 5 years. The team never won the title during his years with Panathinaikos, but came close multiple times.
After 7 years in Greece, Karagounis finally left Greece to play for Inter Milan, a football club for Italian Serie A. Karagounis was not a key player for Inter, but was called up to Greece anyway. He played a key role in Greece’s miracle run to the final, even scoring a cracker of a goal in their opening game (against their eventual final opponents, Portugal). However, this was also a slightly tumultuous for Karagounis, as he was suspended for two key games (against Russia in the group stages and Portugal in the final), but Greece was able to move past it and pull off the monumental upsets and win the tournament. In 2005, Karagounis went to Portrugal to play for S.L. Benefica. One of his biggest moments for Benefica came in 2006 when Karagounis scored on a chip shot again FC Shakhtar Donetsk to help lead his team to a 2-0 win. After playing 2 seasons in Portrugal for Benefica, Karagounis decided that it was in his best interest to return to Greece to play for Panathinaikos again, where he agreed to contract for 3 years. After 2012, he decided it was again time to move on to a different club, and ended his career at Panathinaikos. He captained the Greek team of Athens and proceeded to win his second Super League and Greek Cup.
Since 2012, Karagounis has played for Fulham. He made his debut for Fulham on September 29, 2012. While at Fulham, he played his first full, 90-minute game of his professional soccer career against Liverpool F.C. He scored his first goal this year on January 5, 2013. However, he was released by Fulham at the end of the 2012-2013 season, but resigned for a one year extension for the 2014 season. During the 2013 season, Karagounis made 9 appearances and played a total of 485 minutes. He scored one goal for the club. He also had 233 successful short passes, and 40 successful long passes over the course of the season, and conceded 11 goals. Despite Karagounis’ best efforts, Fulham were relegated at the end of the 2013-2014 season.
Karagounis’ most remarkable accomplishment, however, is his overall record of games for Greece. Over his 15 year international career, from 1999-2014, he managed to accumulate the most international appearances, or caps, in Greece’s history. This, despite what may happen for the Greeks in Brazil, cements Karagounis as a legend for Greek football. He has been there for all the ups and downs, from the spectacular Euro 2004 win to the failure to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. Simply put, Giorgos Karagounis IS Greek football.
As a long-time journeyman, there is no doubt that Karagounis has had many ups and downs in his career. However, his style of play has gained him an immense amount of respect from his teammates, managers, opponents, and fans. This is evidenced by the fact that he will captain Greece again in the 2014 World Cup. Look for him to lead Greece with his gritty, tough style of play.
How to cite this article: “Greece: Giorgos Karagounis”, World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).