Assessment: History made, respect earned
Greece have bowed out of the World Cup at the Last 16 and ESPNFC blogger Chris Paraskevas gives his verdict on the brighter points of the campaign as well as what went wrong.
One sentence, World Cup recap
Greece made history, earned plenty of respect and have laid the foundation for this team to build towards the next European Championships and World Cup.
All team assessments
Group Stage: Australia | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Cameroon | Croatia | Ecuador | England | Ghana | Honduras | Italy | Iran
Ivory Coast | Japan | Portugal | Russia | South Korea | Spain
Round of 16: Algeria | Chile | Greece | Mexico
Nigeria | Switzerland | Uruguay | United States
Quarterfinals: Colombia | France | Belgium | Costa Rica
Semifinals: Brazil | Netherlands
Kostas Manolas. The Olympiakos centre-back wasn't always convincing during his first two seasons with the Greek giants but he looked entirely comfortable on football's biggest stage. With regular first-choice defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos missing the tournament through injury, Manolas won the race for a starting spot alongside Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
He deputised brilliantly for Kyriakos and was his country's most consistent performer in Brazil. Even when Greece were beaten 3-0 by Colombia in their opening game, Manolas emerged with credit. His pace and strength in one-on-one situations has been a feature of his play. The manner in which he helped to shackle a potentially dangerous Ivory Coast defence in a famous 2-1 win, as well as his tussle with club teammate Joel Campbell against Costa Rica, were highlights.
At 23 he was one of the youngest members of Fernando Santos' squad and should attract the interest of some big European suitors over the summer. A star in the making.
Georgios Samaras' injury-time penalty against the Ivory Coast is obviously the stand out moment of this campaign. It looked as though Greece were heading for another group stage exit despite hitting the woodwork three times and dominating the African side. Wilfried Bony's late equaliser was going to break Greek hearts until Samaras won the spot-kick and showed nerves of steel to convert. It was the stuff of folklore in Fortaleza.
That performance was so important because for the first time at a World Cup, Greece played a brand of football that was positive. At the two previous tournaments the Greek team had been frustratingly poor, but here was a display full of character and adventure. When Samaras' penalty hit the back of the net, there was an outpouring of relief and joy at having properly arrived on the big stage.
Other highlights included the second half against Japan, where the Greeks really turned their campaign around with a dogged display. The point that they earned that day -- after going down to 10 men in the first half -- proved as important as the Ivory Coast win. The last-gasp equaliser against Costa Rica was a wonderful moment also, with this team showing their resilience and spirit to keep the campaign alive a little longer.
A nearly disastrous defeat to Colombia to open the campaign was definitely the low point. This was the Greek team of old: slow to start and riddled with schoolboy errors. It's incredible that Santos was able to rally his team and lead them into the knockout stages in the aftermath.
The infighting that followed was another black mark on this campaign, with Giannis Maniatis and Georgios Tzavellas exchanging heated words ahead of the Japan match. That prompted Maniatis to book a flight back home to Greece, only to be convinced by teammates to stay in Brazil. It's a good thing that he did, with his performances against Japan and the Ivory Coast proving crucial.
The importance of a top quality goalkeeper was emphasised in the harshest way possible to this Greek team, who were denied by the outstanding Keylor Navas. Their own shot-stopper, Orestis Kanrezis, never convinced during the tournament. During the penalty shoot-out it was hard to imagine him making the difference. Navas, meanwhile, produced at least three world-class saves at crucial points during the quarterfinal before saving Theofanis Gekas' penalty.
Whoever becomes the new Greece manager -- Santos is now departing his post -- may need to think about slightly altering the philosophy that has served this country so well over the past decade. Though the Greeks have built their success on prioritising defensive structure, their inability to break down 10-man Costa Rica was telling. Yes, Navas was superb, but Greece didn't convince in the search for an equaliser or during extra time.
This is to be expected of a team with creative limitations, but the style of football usually employed isn't conducive to taking the initiative in games. If Greece are to improve on their showing at this tournament, there might need to be a little more variety in approach to the game. The new manager will need to bring some fresh ideas.