Greece stun Portugal to complete odyssey
Outsiders Greece crowned their astonishing Euro 2004 campaign by beating hosts Portugal 1-0 in the final on Sunday.
Greece, who had never previously won a match at a major tournament, lifted the second-most prestigious trophy in the sport thanks to a 57th-minute header by striker Angelos Haristeas.
They then showed all the tenacious defending that had taken them further than even their most ardent fans could have dreamed of to hold off Portugal in a frantic final assault.
The victory was a triumph for Greece's German coach Otto Rehhagel, who turned his adopted country from international also-rans to the cream of the continent in less than three years, in the process becoming the first foreign coach to win either the European Championship or World Cup.
The result ended the dreams of Portugal, also appearing in their first final, and underlined again that Greece's 2-1 victory over the hosts in the tournament's first game three weeks ago was no fluke.
Victory over France in the quarter-finals made them the first team to beat the hosts and defending champions in the same competition, and they reached the final with a superlative team effort against the fancied Czech Republic.
Many thought that that gruelling extra-time success on Thursday would leave them too drained to compete with the buoyant host nation, who had recovered from that opening blow to hit top form in their charge to the final.
But as others now watching from home have found, Greece, with their tactical discipline, strength and formidable workrate have developed into a fearsomely difficult side to break down.
Off-target shots by defender Miguel and Maniche were all Portugal had to show for their effort in a scrappy first half, while their goalkeeper Ricardo had to react smartly to smother at the feet of Charisteas in a rare Greek foray.
It was a half short of quality, though the massed ranks of around 15,000 Greek fans seemed unconcerned as they did their best to negate Portugal's home advantage with a constant barrage of noise.
The blue and white decibel level went off the scale in the 57th minute, however, when Greece took the lead.
A driving run by fullback Yourkas Seitaridis earned Greece their first corner of the match and when Angelos Basinas delivered it into the goalmouth, Haristeas outjumped the flailing Ricardo to power his header into the net.
The striker, who also headed the goal that knocked out France, was immediately buried under a mass of celebrating players but Greece were quickly back on the defensive.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo both fired in firm low shots as Portugal, who had managed at least one goal in their previous 13 matches, upped the pace.
Ronaldo shot over again from close range in the 74th minute as substitute Rui Costa added extra invention to the home attack.
But, as they had so often during the tournament, Greece withstood it all to take the title.
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