Just five minutes after coming on as a substitute against Poland on Friday, Dimitris Salpingidis pounced on a goalkeeping error to equalise for 10-man Greece and earn his nation a valuable point in Warsaw.
Having had a man sent off a minute before the break, Greece coach Fernando Santos was forced to change things around, sacrificing winger Sotiris Ninis for the hard-working Salpingidis. The substitution felt unnoticeable at the time, with Poland sure to press on from their dominant first-half display and school the Greeks in a lesson of expansive attacking intent.
But Poland’s promise never materialised in the second half, and just five minutes in Wojciech Szczesny’s nervy mistake exposed the host nation’s weakness.
Yet the 1-1 draw cannot be fully attributed to Poland’s poor end to the game. Greece were resilient in their efforts to claw back, often keeping three men high up the pitch to maintain pressure on a panicky back four. While Georgios Samaras proved just as frustrating to watch as he is in a Celtic shirt, Salpingidis led by example, wowing the 70,000+ crowd.
30-year-old Salpingidis may be at the wrong end of his career to secure a big-money move after Euro 2012, but his determination and hard work proved just what international football can do to some players: representing your nation can up your game.
Along with his goal, Salpingidis created Greece’s missed penalty and put in 45-minutes of sheer effort. He already holds iconic status in Greece after he scored the nation’s first ever World Cup goal in 2010, and he was the headline name in the Greek papers on Saturday morning.
His performance should not only earn him a starting place in Greece’s next match against the Czech Republic on Tuesday, but he will now be a target for Czech defenders looking to stifle his penetrating forward runs.