The final whistle blew and you could hear the collective groan the world over, Greece had qualified for the knock out rounds of the World Cup. It was not pretty (it never is when Greece is involved) but it was a performance that is typical of this team when their backs are against the wall, resolute defending, counter attacking and a bit of luck.

Obviously this is a huge step for Greek football in general, over their three World Cup appearances the team has steadily gotten better in their performances. From zero points and getting beaten badly in each 1994 match to their first victory over Nigeria in 2010 to now qualifying for the knockouts, it’s truly impressive how this team has improved over time. The Golden Generation that won the Euros in 2004 is having its last throw of the dice on the world stage and is helping to plant the seeds for the next generation of players who will take the team forward.

Say what you will about the style of play, you cannot overlook the fighting mentality that has been ingrained in all of the Greek players, a mentality which will hopefully carry over for generations to come. Greece is far from being a world power in football but I submit that their transformation from the turn of the century to now is one of the most impressive in the entire world.

If you draw from a historical perspective the rise of Greek football has gone on a near identical path to the rise of Danish football from their 1992 Euro win to going on to qualify for three of the following six World Cups as well as making a quarterfinals appearance in one of those World Cups. Overall today’s result, from a Greek perspective, is massive. Even if they go out and lose heavily to Costa Rica in the knockouts, just the fact that they were able to make it there is an achievement in itself when you consider where this team came from just over a decade ago. But knowing Greece, they could be a good bet to be a difficult team for Costa Rica to beat, and would be worth a wager on

With that said, the amount of hate that this team receives still astounds me. If the USA went through what Greece went through to qualify for the knockouts, Disney would be tripping over themselves to secure the movie rights. After being run off the pitch in the first game, this is a team that lost their star striker not even half way through the 2nd match, lost one of their veteran leaders to a frivolous double yellow, then had to take off their most creative player AND their starting goalkeeper barely 20 minutes into their biggest World Cup match ever AND THEY STILL FOUND A WAY TO WIN.

I understand that it’s not pretty to watch but for a sport that loves narratives this is an absolute gold mine. As usual though, people write it off because it is just little Greece. But the Greeks and their fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

Keep making the jokes about “We could have had Sweden & Zlatan” (which is false, you would have had Romania) Keep moaning and groaning about how boring it is to watch. It just makes Greece’s triumphs even sweeter for their fans, players and coaches.