Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Greece marches into Euro 2004 final

IT'S SHOWTIME!Greece upset the hot favorites Czech Republic 1-0 and faces the team they beat in the group stages, hosts Portugal, in tomorrow's Euro 2004 final

REUTERS AND AFP , PORTO

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, as Tomas Ujfalusi, 21, and Jan Koller, 9, look on.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Greece caused yet another astonishing upset when they reached the final of Euro 2004 after beating the Czech Republic 1-0 with a stunning silver goal winner from defender Traianos Dellas on Thursday.

Dellas glanced home a header seconds from the end of the first half of extra time when he reacted first to a corner from substitute Vassilis Tsartas, leaving the Czech defense and goalkeeper Petr Cech helpless. As the Czechs staggered to the ground in disbelief, the Greek players, bench and fans went into ecstasy.

There was just time for referee Pierluigi Collina, officiating in his last major tournament before retiring, to allow the Czechs to finally restart the game.

He then almost immediately signalled the end of the match sending Greece into tomorrow's final against hosts Portugal at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon.

Nothing in international soccer history at this level compares with Greece's achievement in reaching the final.

They were 80-1 to win the title before Euro 2004 began, had not won a match in their two previous appearances in a finals tournament and were expected to make up the numbers in a first round group including Portugal, Spain and Russia.

But they never read the script.

"The fairy tale continues. It's unbelievable what they did," said Greece coach Otto Rehhagel. "It's a true miracle. The Czechs were technically better but the passion and the will was on our side. We had nothing to lose, we could risk everything."

Greece captain Theodoros Zagorakis added: "We came to just do our best and we suddenly find ourselves in the final. If we had said from the beginning that we would be finalists, everyone would have said we were crazy."

Greece beat Portugal 2-1 in the opening match, became the first team ever to beat the hosts and holders in the same competition when they knocked out champions France 1-0 in the quarterfinals and have now eliminated the favorites.

They stand on the brink of a fairytale title that would eclipse Denmark's shock 1992 win in Sweden, when the Danes were called back from holiday to replace suspended Yugoslavia.

The Danes had appeared in the 1984 European championship and also the 1986 World Cup with some distinction. Greece have only ever been also-rans.

The Czechs had won all their four previous games and were seemingly headed for their third final after winning in 1976 and losing in 1996. They were unbeaten in nine competitive matches and had never lost one under coach Karel Brueckner.

The Czechs had their chances and failed to take them. Greece only really seriously threatened after Stelios Giannakopoulos replaced Angelos Basinas after 72 minutes.

The only downside for Greece is that feisty midfielder Giorgos Karagounis picked up his second yellow card of the knockout phase and will be suspended for the final.

Little in the previous 105 minutes suggested Greece would actually win, apart from possibly getting through on penalties.

They were content to break up the Czechs more flowing football and, although they were disciplined, Greece were largely outplayed in midfield by their more skilful opponents.

The Czechs kept pushing forward even after losing skipper Pavel Nedved in the 40th minute when he was injured in a clash with Costas Katsouranis. He limped on for a few minutes and went down the tunnel at halftime with ice on his knee.

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