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Fancy meeting you here

Published: Friday 2 July 2004, 19.49CET
When Portugal play Greece on Sunday, it will be the third time that teams who met in their opening game have contested a UEFA European Championship final.
by John Atkin
 
Published: Friday 2 July 2004, 19.49CET

Fancy meeting you here

When Portugal play Greece on Sunday, it will be the third time that teams who met in their opening game have contested a UEFA European Championship final.

When Portugal play Greece at the Estádio da Luz this Sunday, it will be the third time that teams who met in their opening game at a UEFA European Championship have gone on to contest the final.

Rematch
Since the final tournament was expanded from its original four-team format in 1980, the finals in 1988 and 1996 both provided a rematch for first-day opponents. In the 1988 edition in Germany, the Netherlands lined up against the Soviet Union for their opening group match as favourites.

Rats winner
However, Valeriy Lobanovskiy's team knew each other well - no fewer than eight played together at FC Dynamo Kyiv. They packed the midfield and, aided by a string of saves by Rinat Dasayev, won the game 1-0 through a goal from Vasiliy Rats.

Dutch triumphant
It was the Netherlands, however, who triumphed when the sides faced each other again in the final in Munich on 25 June. Rinus Michels' men ran out 2-0 winners through a Ruud Gullit header and Marco van Basten's memorable volley.

Less straightforward
Eight years later at EURO '96™, Germany began their campaign with a convincing 2-0 victory against the Czech Republic through goals from Christian Ziege and Andreas Möller. Three weeks later, on 30 June, the sides met again in the final at Wembley and this time it was less straightforward for Germany.

Golden goal
When Patrik Berger scored a penalty just before the hour, a shock looked on the cards, but an inspired substitution ten minutes later turned the game around. Just four minutes after coach Berti Vogts introduced Oliver Bierhoff, the striker put the Germans level with a towering header and he struck again in extra time to become the first player to score a golden goal in a senior international match.

Omens
So to this Sunday's final. Those seeking a positive omen for the host country might consider that in 1988 and 1996 it was the favourites who won the final. But then the Greeks have a habit of upsetting the odds - after all their 2-1 victory over Portugal on 12 June was the first time the hosts had lost a European Championship opening match.

Last updated: 02/07/04 19.53CET

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