If winning UEFA EURO 2004™ against all odds was difficult, staying at the top will be even harder according to Greece midfield player Stelios Giannakopoulos.
'We have to continue'
Giannakopoulos said Greece had to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup if their success in Portugal was to have any lasting value. "This is the hard part of the story - staying in the same place," he told euro2004.com. "We don't have to stop now, we have to continue and be present in the next big event in the World Cup in Germany. We will try to get to Germany, nobody knows what we can achieve."
Rebirth of Greek football
His words were echoed by team-mate Nikolaos Dabizas, who told euro2004.com that maintaining their success would "be the biggest achievement of all". Dabizas added: "We must try and build on it to change the whole thinking in Greek football and bring a different mentality. This has to be the beginning of the rebirth of Greek football."
Dabizas went on to praise coach Otto Rehhagel for changing the mentality of the Greece team. "He changed the whole way that we play. We've been very, very effective and the way we played here was down to him. He's done that and he has to take credit for that. He has mixed the European mentality with the talent of the Greek players. He is a major success."
Words to players
Rehhagel told the Greece players before the final that they were already the winners of the tournament. Dabizas said: "He told us to just go out and win the game, that we had nothing to lose and that we were the winners of the tournament. He told us we were playing against 40,000 people and they were a very good side and everybody was saying before the game that Portugal would win it. Obviously we proved that we are the best side in Europe at the moment."
Greece's approach was criticised in some quarters but it was defended by Giannakopoulos, who said: "I prefer to play ugly and win the cup." There were no secrets to their success, he added, saying it was down simply to: "Discipline and hard work, hard work, hard work, hard work."
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