By Gerald Imiray ,AP
RECIFE, Brazil — Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis retired from international soccer Sunday after his country’s World Cup elimination in a penalty shootout loss to Costa Rica.
Karagounis leaves as Greece’s most capped player with 139 appearances over 15 years since making his debut in 1999. He also won the European Championship with Greece in 2004.
Karagounis’ Greece fell in a shootout in the round of 16 at the World Cup in Brazil despite having a man advantage for nearly an hour following Oscar Duarte’s 66th-minute red card for Costa Rica at Arena Pernambuco.
Down 1-0, Greece equalized in injury-time at the end of the 90 minutes but couldn’t force a winner in extra time, despite launching attack after attack.
“You don’t always get such breaks in life,” the 37-year-old Karagounis said.
The midfielder said his team would still exit the World Cup with “our heads high.”
Karagounis said Greece was on the right path after making the second round of the World Cup for the first time, and the “younger guys” would now take it forward.
“These games and experiences are a great launching pad for the future,” he said. “They will help keep the team on this level, something not always easy. We are Greece after all, we don’t have many means.”
Karagounis will wait until Monday to say farewell to his teammates, he said, as the Greeks first digest their elimination.
“These are not the best occasions,” he said soon after the shootout loss.
Greece’s goal-scorer on Sunday, defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos, paid tribute to his departing leader.
“He’s written his own story … he’s the record holder (of caps), he’s given everything for the team and had to make concessions for it,” Papastathopoulos said. “He’s left us a legacy for the future. He shouldn’t worry.”
Although Karagounis’ international career ended with the bitter disappointment of defeat in a penalty shootout at the World Cup, he can reflect on being part of the team that won the European title a decade ago against all expectations. In Brazil, he also led Greece to the second round of the World Cup for the first time.
Greece coach Fernando Santos will also leave after his contract expires on Monday. Santos said in the buildup to the game against Costa Rica that if Greece had won, a temporary clause in his contract would have become active keeping him as coach until the end of the campaign.
As it turned out, that wasn’t needed and Santos ended his time as coach by watching the shootout on a television screen inside the stadium after being sent to the stands by the referee. He said Australian referee Ben Williams ordered him off after saying he had encroached on the field at the end of extra time when he shouldn’t have.