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Greece reach first major final
Updated: 2004-07-02 08:34

Greece will face hosts Portugal in the final of Euro 2004 after the rank outsiders beat the Czech Republic 1-0 with a silver goal from defender Traianos Dellas in extra time.

Greece's Traianos Dellas (#5) scores the winning goal past team mate Zdenek Grygera (#2), Czech Republic's goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis (#1) Tomas Galasek (#4) and Vladimir Smicer (#7) in a Euro 2004 semi-final soccer match at the Dragao stadium in Porto, July 1, 2004. Greece won the match 1-0. [Reuters]

It is the first major final for Greece who had never won a game at a major tournament before coming to Portugal and were quoted at odds of 80-1 to win the title before it began.

However, they had stunned the hosts by beating them in the opening match and will now have a chance to repeat that feat at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on Sunday.

Czech Republic's Milan Baros reacts after his team lost 1-0 to Greece in a Euro 2004 semi-final soccer match at the Dragao stadium in Porto, July 1, 2004. [Reuters]

Greece battled for victory on Thursday in the semi-final as they harried and harassed the Czechs throughout the match though the tactics led to a game based more on perspiration than inspiration.

Dellas popped up with the headed winner from a corner by substitute Vassilis Tsartas just seconds before the end of the first half of extra time. Under the silver goal rules if a team was leading at the break they won the match.

A Czech Republic fan reacts after her team lost 1-0 against Greece in a Euro 2004 semi-final soccer match at the Dragao stadium in Porto, July 1, 2004. [Reuters]

"The fairy-tale continues, it's unbelievable what they did. It's a true miracle," said Greece coach Otto Rehhagel.

"The Czechs were technically better but the passion and the will was on our side. We had nothing to lose, we could risk everything. We could play for all or nothing.

Nedved injured

The Czechs played the more flowing and attractive soccer -- even after losing skipper Pavel Nedved in the 40th minute when he was accidentally injured in a clash with Costas Katsouranis.

Greek soccer fans celebrate in the centre of Porto after their team's win against the Czech Republic in the Euro 2004 semi-final soccer match in Porto July  2, 2004. [Reuters]

Nedved, on a yellow card and in danger of missing the final if the Czechs won, limped on for a few minutes and went down the tunnel at halftime with an ice pack on his knee.

Although having the better of the territorial play, the Czechs could not break down a Greek defence that regularly surrounded any Czech player on the ball with five or six men.

Greece attempted to break up the Czechs' more flowing moves with a series of body checks and shirt-pulling around their own penalty area and, although there was a passionate atmosphere in the stadium, too much of the play was fragmented.

Pierluigi Collina, the world's top referee, officiating in his last international before retiring, booked six players -- but failed to award Jan Koller a penalty when he appeared to be pulled down by the shirt in the box early in the second half.

Koller should have got his revenge for that by scoring in the 80th minute after a quick one-two with Tomas Rosicky, but fired wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Brighter start

The Czechs, buoyed by four successive wins, made the brighter start and went close to opening the scoring after only three minutes when a powerful volley by midfielder Tomas Rosicky rattled the bar after Koller headed on a free kick.

Otherwise, there were few chances in a tense opening period in which Greece attempted to shackle Koller and five-goal Milan Baros, the tournament's top scorer.

Traianos Dellas played as a sweeper while Michalis Kapsis attempted a marking job on Koller and Yourkas Seitaridis was detailed to do the same on Baros.

The tactics worked because chances were restricted and gradually Greece began to exert some pressure of their own in the Czech half.

However, they only had one chance of note in the opening period after 29 minutes when striker Zisis Vryzas just failed to connect with a cross from Takis Fyssas four metres out.

Karel Poborsky flighted the ball just over the Greek bar after 69 minutes before Koller came close and then Baros fired just wide of the post with his left foot from 16 metres.

Greece midfielder Giorgos Karagounis was booked for a foul on substitute Vladimir Smicer in the 88th minute and will miss the final through suspension.

After the match finished goalless at the end of normal time Baros found himself booked in the extra period for a foul on Takis Fyssas before Greece defender Dellas scored the winner after 105 minutes to put them in the final.

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