Euro 2004: How Greece stunned the world with their first European title

As the Euro 2024 qualifiers come to a close, let us look back to one of the glorious moments in European Championship history – Greece’s first win since 1980, the nation’s maiden appearance in the tournament. Greece is one of the four additional nations included in the competition after it expands its admission from four teams to eight, making the nation a pioneer in this format and older than most nations in the modern format. Get the latest football handicap here! 

In 2004, the moment Greek sport was waiting for happened as their national team became champions of Europe for the first time by beating in the final round, the hosts, Portugal 0-1. They defeated three top-seeded teams en route to lifting the cup and finally ended their Euro title drought. “The Greeks have made football history. It’s a sensation,” said the then Greece’s German coach Otto Rehhagel. More football odds here! 

The arch-strategist that plotted this success was coach Rehhagel. The old German strategist and champions maker Rehhagel arrived in Greece with the clear goal of rescuing the team’s unimpressive European football record. Prior to his arrival, Greece was recovering from a disappointing streak of failure in qualifying for the Euro 1996, the World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000. 

The winner of the UEFA Cup in 1996 with Bayern Munich assembled a team that was claimed to be “boring” and was  unlikely to advance in the play-offs. It was displayed during the first two matches of the group stage as they faced defeat just like their debut appearance in the tournament. Apparently, they won their remaining six games without conceding a single goal.

Their opening game in the play-offs was against Portugal’s golden era since the 1966 FIFA World Cup top three finish. Giorgos Karagounis opened the scoring in the 7th minute with a remarkable long-range goal.  Angelos Basinas penalty in the 51st minute doubled their lead and made sure that Cristiano Ronaldo’s 93rd-minute will be the hosts’ only goal that time.

The following match, they faced and beat another strong contender, Spain. It was followed by France and the Czech Republic in the quarters and semis respectively, where they defeated the then champions and the most notorious team when it came to attacking that time. Traianos Dellas scored the winning header in the 105th minute against the Czechs which sealed Greece’s place in the final.

The much awaited final round arrived and it was against the host and the then favourite team to win the tournament. Greece, despite being just the underdog, made sure that Portugal would get a chance to bounce back from the previous defeat they caused.  Defying everyone’s expectation, Angelo Charisteas’ heroic header sealed the European victory at last.

This win was the most talked about victory that year and it was written in the book. Greece’s Euro 2004 title proved every country has a chance to succeed despite falling multiple times from the start. This win was celebrated in Greece and all over the world. Rehhagel, Charisteas, Karagounis, Zagorakis, Dellas and the rest had guaranteed their names among the Gods of Greek sport.

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