On this day in the Euros, June 12: Greece spoil Portugal’s party
The exciting hosts opened the tournament against the rank outsiders. You can guess what happened next…
Managed by World Cup winner Big Phil Scolari (height: 5ft 11.5in), the 2004 hosts Portugal couldn’t have asked for a better opener: outsiders Greece had only previously qualified for the Euros and World Cup once each (1980 and 1994), and hadn’t won a single game.
However, the Greeks’ 65-year-old gaffer Otto Rehhagel was your archetypal Wily Old Fox, who after 30 years’ management in Germany had drilled the Ethniki into a superbly organised defensive unit. And after the pomp and nonsense of the opening ceremony, it only took Greece seven minutes to grab a lead they could hold on to.
It came when Paulo Ferreira, a week before joining Chelsea for just the £13.2m, inexplicably gifted the ball to gorgeous Giorgos Karagounis, the Inter midfielder happily accepting the chance to lope forward and pop it in the bottom corner from 25 yards.
It’s not fair to characterise the Greeks as entirely defensive — they pushed for a second against a bizarrely sloppy Portugal — but they did replace Karagounis for the more defensive Kostas Katsouranis at half-time, while a fuming Scolari hoiked Rui Costa and Simao Sabrosa for Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The teenage Manchester United winger had an effect six minutes into the second half: tracking back with the overlapping right-back Giourkas Seitardis, he naively gave away a penalty which Angelos Basinas duly converted. Ronaldo nodded in a Luis Figo corner in injury time, but the game was lost.
Portugal recovered to top the group, knock England out on pens, beat the Dutch and reach the final. There they met the Greeks again, who had snuck through behind them, shocked France and squeezed past the Czechs in injury time.
And in the final, Angelos Charisteas made it three successive 1–0 wins, and glory for Greece. The 42 minutes in that opening group game between Basinas’s spot-kick and Ronaldo’s consolation were the only time in the tournament Rehhagel’s team held a two-goal cushion. Try finding a Greek fan who cares.
Originally published by FourFourTwo on June 11, 2016.