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Portuguese freeze on big stage

Published: Sunday 13 June 2004, 0.55CET
The weight of expectation, built up over two years, proved far too much for the Portuguese team to handle in the opening game.
by Adam Szreter
from Porto

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Published: Sunday 13 June 2004, 0.55CET

Portuguese freeze on big stage

The weight of expectation, built up over two years, proved far too much for the Portuguese team to handle in the opening game.

The weight of expectation, built up over two years, proved far too much for the Portuguese team to handle in the opening game of UEFA EURO 2004™. Up against a surprisingly confident and well-organised Greek team, Luiz Felipe Scolari's men had no answers to the problems they posed.

Lack of belief
An early goal in each half sucked the life and belief out of the host nation, for whom Luís Figo stood out for his endeavour; but until substitutes Cristiano Ronaldo and Deco appeared for the second half, the Real Madrid CF star was conspicuously short of supporting actors.

Basinas converts
Greece, on the other hand, had to pinch themselves after Angelos Basinas put them 2-0 up in the 51st minute from a penalty. It was conceded by Ronaldo for a foul on Giourkas Seitaridis, playing on what could soon be his home ground if he makes his expected move from Panathinaikos FC later in the summer.

'Dream start'
Greece played better than many of their regular observers have seen them play for a long time. They were disciplined, passionate, focused and lacking in the fear that sometime grips them on big stages. And their joy was summed up by Stelios Giannakopoulos, who said: "It is a dream start. Who could have guessed that we would get three points out of our first match - and against the hosts."

'No stress'
Georgios Karagounis, who opened the scoring in the seventh minute with a firm drive from the edge of the penalty area, said: "We came to play in this feast of football without any experience, but also without stress. The nervousness was evident in the Portuguese players, who were playing in front of their crowd.

'Great day'
"We all gave it our best and now we are celebrating Greece's first win in a major tournament. It's a great day for Greek football. But three points don't guarantee qualification for the quarter-finals. So we must stay focused, because on Wednesday we have a very important match against Spain."

'Successful strategy'
His coach Otto Rehhagel said: "The strategy and tactics that we have applied have been successful. We will rest tonight and of course we will concentrate on our next game against Spain. Greece always had very good individual players, but now we have a very good and co-ordinated team. Everyone is working together to achieve the same goal."

Individual errors
For his part, Scolari said: "We made some individual mistakes which led to the early advantage for Greece. Then the Greeks defended very well and played on the counterattack. In the second half we made our second mistake and suffered the second goal.

Two wins required
"Both teams were very nervous. In the second half Portugal pushed the Greeks back and managed to shoot more often but we were not able to score. Now we need to win the next two matches. Next Wednesday, against Russia, will be all or nothing for Portugal, with the support of our fans."

'Unfair result'
Meanwhile, Figo - whose corner led to Ronaldo's consolation - said: "In a tournament like the EURO we cannot make these kind of mistakes. Nevertheless, looking at the match, I don't think it was a fair result. We tried to fight but we lost the second ball often, had to recover very quickly and lost control of the midfield.

Second goal decisive
"I think the second goal decided the game. The Greeks then sat back to defend and secured the result very well. We were not expecting to lose this game. Now we must overcome this result."

Venglos view
Jozef Venglos, the former Czechoslovakia national coach and now chairman of the UEFA Technical Development Committee, said: "Many people in Europe will be surprised by this result. It's always difficult to play the opening game as favourites, and after Greece scored the opening goal they dictated the pattern of the game.

Portuguese pressure
"They played well as a team, well organised by their captain [Man of the Match Theodoros Zagorakis], both central defenders played well and they counterattacked well. Portugal were under a lot of pressure psychologically, and although Figo played well, he did not get enough support."

Last updated: 23/06/14 9.48CET

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