With just three points separating first place from last in Group A -- the "Group of Life" -- of Euro 2012 going into the final matchday, there was a strong possibility that something weird would happen. And when the final whistles blew, the Czech Republic were atop the group with a negative goal difference and Greece snatched second place from previous group leaders Russia.
As Opta Sports pointed out, this was the second time the Czechs, who beat Poland 1-0 to finish with two wins and one loss, advanced out of a Euro group stage with a negative goal difference (the other being Euro 1996). But to win the group while also allowing the most goals against (five -- four of which came in their loss to Russia) is likely something even Petr Cech's psychic helmet couldn't have predicted.
Helping the Czechs achieve that unusual feat was Greece's 1-0 win over Russia. Captain Giorgios Karagounis scored just before halftime to give the Euro 2004 champions another taste of unexpected success that was made slightly bittersweet when Karagounis was booked for diving (gif here) in the second half, which will keep him out of the quarterfinal with a yellow card accumulation ban. Yet, Greece will be in the quarterfinals instead of Russia even though both sides finished with four points and Russia had a goal difference of two better because the head-to-head record is considered before goal difference in determining the standings.
So the Czechs and Greeks hang around a bit longer while the Russians go home and co-hosts Poland, er, stay home after finishing last with two draws and a loss. Here are some more happy Greeks...
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