Greece pulled off the biggest shock of UEFA EURO 2004 so far as they beat France for the first time in their history to reach the semi-finals.
Angelos Charisteas's 65-minute goal sent the defending champions crashing out of the competition along with fellow former winners Italy, Germany and Spain. France, with Thierry Henry struggling to reproduce his best form and Patrick Vieira out injured, were heavily reliant on Zinédine Zidane, but for once the great man was unable to inspire his team-mates sufficiently.
Greece coach Otto Rehhagel made three changes to the side beaten by Russia in their final group match. Striker Demis Nikolaidis made his first start of the tournament, midfielder Georgios Karagounis returned from suspension and Panagiotis Fyssas was preferred to Stelios Venetidis at left-back. For France, injuries to Vieira and Willy Sagnol gave Olivier Dacourt and William Gallas starts.
Nikolaidis, Greece's leading goalscorer, was involved straight away, chasing down a flick-on from strike partner Charisteas, but Lilian Thuram was across to cover for France. Fyssas then crossed dangerously for Charisteas but the SV Werder Bremen man could not quite get his head to the ball. Nikolaidis perked Greece up again with a decent snap-shot held, head-high, by Fabien Barthez.
A minute later Greece believed they had taken the lead when Karagounis' inswinging free-kick was met at the far post by Kostas Katsouranis but Barthez was adjudged to have intervened before the whole of the ball had crossed the line.
Aside from a Henry header that flew just over after good work from Zidane and Bixente Lizarazu, France were struggling to find a rhythm. Greece, prompted by captain Theodoros Zagorakis and Fyssas' left-wing incursions, were taking full advantage, Katsouranis and Fyssas calling Barthez into action, the latter with a spectacular long-range volley.
Greece departed for the interval with their fans jumping for joy, knowing they were in with a real chance of springing the biggest surprise of the championship; France by contrast left to a resounding chorus of disapproval from their fans. But from the restart there was more urgency about them, with Henry shooting just wide in the opening minutes.
Their best moments thus far came on 57 minutes. Lizarazu, winning his 98th cap, stormed through the inside-left channel and was only stopped by a brave challenge from Michalis Kapsis, who moments later headed out from beneath his own crossbar under pressure from David Trezeguet following an Henry cross.
But then France's world fell apart. Zagorakis, haring down the right flank, cleverly flicked the ball beyond Lizarazu and sent over a measured cross for Charisteas. His header, from near the penalty spot, was textbook precision and Barthez had no chance as the ball flashed past him. Les Bleus coach Jacques Santini promptly threw forwards Louis Saha and Sylvain Wiltord into the fray.
Saha caused a flutter in Greek hearts as he skipped past Kapsis but his shot was smothered by Antonis Nikopolidis. Henry, at last inspired, then embarked on the kind of slaloming run that is his trademark but to no avail as the final shot was a weak one. Then he headed wide from a better opening, summing up a frustrating night for the champions. The Greek party, though, was just beginning – next up, the Czech Republic.
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