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Greece stun Portugal to win Euro 2004
Greece's extraordinary Euro 2004 odyssey has ended in a 1-0 victory over hosts Portugal in the final as they were crowned European champions for the first time.
Greece, who had never previously won a match at a major tournament, lifted the second-most prestigious trophy in the sport on Sunday thanks to a 57th-minute header by striker Angelos Haristeas and more of the tenacious defending that has underpinned their campaign.
It 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 three years to become the first foreign manager to win the European Championship or World Cup.
"The Greeks made football history today," Rehhagel told reporters. "It's a sensation. It was an unusual achievement for Greek football and especially for European football.
"The team played great football. We took advantage of our chances. The opponent was technically better than us."
The result ended the dreams of Portugal, also appearing in their first final and attempting to become the first host country to win the European Championship since France in 1984.
"We ask forgiveness from all the Portuguese because we weren't able to achieve the goal that we all wanted," Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said.
"It's hard. It's hard to lose this way...to play a game this way, without goals. They won defensively. They won because they knew how to play in that way."
Victory over France in the quarter-finals made Greece the first side 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 gruelling extra-time success would leave them too drained to compete with the buoyant hosts, who had recovered from their opening blow to hit top form.
But Greece, with their tactical discipline, strength and formidable workrate have developed into a fearsomely difficult side to break down.
Portugal, showing five changes from the team who appeared paralysed by nerves in the tournament's opening game, started more confidently but rarely found an end product.
Off-target shots by defender Miguel and midfielder Maniche were all they 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 Haristeas 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, Haristeas outjumped the defence and the flailing Ricardo to power his header into the net from six metres.
It was a remarkably similar goal to the silver one scored by defender Traianos Dellas against the Czechs, and Haristeas was buried under a mass of team mates before the Greeks returned to their defensive duties.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo fired in firm low shots as Portugal, who had managed at least one goal in their previous 14 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 and Figo, playing in his Portuguese record-equalling 110th international, curled a left-footer just wide.
A fan ran on to the pitch in the last minute, causing a hold-up that led to five minutes of stoppage time but, just as they had against France and the Czechs, the Greek defenders held firm.
With Greece due to host the Olympic Games next month, the incredible achievement of Rehhagel's team could not have been better timed.