Euro Moments: Greece stun Europe and break Portuguese hearts
Angelos Charisteas heads Otto Rehhagel’s side to a famous victory at Euro 2004
Angelos Charisteas wheels away after scoring the winner in the Euro 2004 final against hosts Portugal. Photograph: Getty
July 4th, 2004
At odds of 250/1 before the tournament and having never won a match in the finals in their history it’s safe to say that Greece were very much unfancied at Euro 2004. In fact they were more than unfancied, they weren’t even considered a possibility to qualify from their group which included hosts Portugal.
And then in the opening game they went and beat the hosts 2-1. Surely just a flash in the pan? But then in their second game they went and drew 1-1 with Spain. Now people were beginning to take notice.
A 2-1 loss to Russia in the final group game should have eliminated the Greeks but a lone Nuno Gomes goal for Portugal against Spain was enough to send the rank outsiders through on goal difference.
And that’s when the 2004 Greece team really came into their own. Put simply, the next three games were three tactical masterclasses from manager Otto Rehhagel. People say that Greece played boring, defensive football once the tournament reached the knockout stages but does it really matter if it’s effective?
Perhaps the most interesting stat is this: Greece won their quarter-final 1-0, their semi-final 1-0 and the final 1-0. All three goals were headers and all three headers came from crosses from the right wing.
Relying heavily on a man-marking strategy with a sweeper that’s virtually unseen in football nowadays, Greece were able to stifle the immensely talented attacks of France, Czech Republic and Portugal to pull off the shock of the century.
With Giourkas Seitaridis on the left and Takis Fyssas on the right operating as wing back, Greece were able to stretch their opponents and deliver dangerous crosses towards striker Angelos Charisteas.
And it was Charisteas who made himself the hero in both the semi-final and the final when twice he rose to head home crosses from the right and give Greece 1-0 victories.
The 2004 Greece team doesn’t get enough credit for the incredible shock it pulled off. People will always remember Denmark in 1992 because of their ferocious attacking style whereas Greece were the antitheses of that.
Well-drilled and playing to their strengths they stifled opponents of a far superior class and pulled off one of the greatest shocks football has ever seen.