Amid the gloom of a political and economic crisis, Greece's gutsy 1-0 win over the heavily favoured Russia to advance to the Euro 2012 quarter-finals has at last given the country's citizens something to cheer about.
Greeks celebrate country's win over Russia
ATHENS // Amid the gloom of a political and economic crisis, Greece's gutsy 1-0 win over the heavily favoured Russia to advance to the Euro 2012 quarter-finals has at last given the country's citizens something to cheer about.
Thousands poured into Athens' Omonia Square on Saturday night waving Greek flags, lighting green and red flares and setting off firecrackers, amid the din of hundreds of honking cars and renditions of the national anthem in a spontaneous outpouring of patriotic fervour.
Clouds of acrid smoke wafted through the square as motorcyclists spun their tires. Shirtless revellers danced in the street, halting traffic - but motorists caught up in the celebratory atmosphere weren't all that bothered, blasting their horns in approval.
On the eve of pivotal elections that could decide their economic fate, the win gave ordinary Greeks a chance to exhibit a little in-your-face swagger, thumb their nose at Europe and push back at being painted as the continent's deadbeats.
The victory was all the sweeter because it came in true underdog style, bringing back memories of Greece's improbable run eight years ago when they won the European championship.
"The result is a message to politicians, to everyone, that Greece won't die and never bows to anyone," said Chris Mbogosian, 62.
"Greeks have heart and they show it when things get tough, we pull together in times of crisis," said 29-year-old Vasilis Papaspyliotopoulos, standing amid the crowd with the Greek flag draped across his shoulders.
Revellers broke into chants of "bring on the Germans", relishing the prospect of meeting the country paying most of the bill for their multibillion-euro bailout - and their most outspoken critic - in a quarter-final showdown with political connotations.
"It's a result that shows our country is strong," said Stavros Helmis, 26. "Sport may not be the most serious thing but it lifts our spirits."