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Tournament comes full circle

Published: Sunday 11 April 2004, 16.14CET
For the first time in any UEFA European Championship or FIFA World Cup, the opening game is being replayed in the final.
by Paul Saffer
from Lisbon

Tournament statistics

PortugalGreece

Goals scored8
 
7
Total attempts114
 
47
Attempts on target40
 
21
Attempts off target52
 
21
Attempts blocked0
 
0
Attempts against woodwork2
 
0
Corners59
 
21
Offsides21
 
19
Yellow cards14
 
18
Red Cards0
 
0
Fouls committed121
 
108
Fouls suffered131
 
123
 
Published: Sunday 11 April 2004, 16.14CET

Tournament comes full circle

For the first time in any UEFA European Championship or FIFA World Cup, the opening game is being replayed in the final.

As it was in the beginning, so it shall be at the end. For the first time in any UEFA European Championship or FIFA World Cup, the opening game is being replayed in the final.

No fluke
Back on 12 June in Porto, Greece shocked hosts Portugal 2-1. At the time neither were expected to keep their campaigns going into July, but Greece have proved the victory for not a fluke, and Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari rang the changes and has not looked back since.

Opening meetings
Greece's win was only their third in eleven meetings with Portugal, victor of four occasions, and their first outside Athens - though their competitive record against these opponents is excellent. Indeed, Greece won their first meeting, in December 1968, prevailing 4-2 in an Athens FIFA World Cup qualifier against a side containing six of the players that lost to England in the 1966 semi-finals. The return was drawn 1-1 and Romania pipped both nations to the final.

Further fixtures
They did not meet again until the 1980s, when they played three friendlies. Portugal won 2-1 in Athens in both 1982 and 1989, with Greece taking a 1-1 draw from Lisbon in 1987. EURO '92 qualifying matched the sides, and again the Greeks struck first with a 3-2 victory in Athens before losing 1-0 in Lisbon, though holders the Netherlands won the group.

Defeat overcome
Portugual again won by the only goal in a 1996 friendly, and a year later drew 0-0 in Athens. Prior to this tournament, in November 2003, Greece drew 1-1 in Aveiro. Then came the meeting in Porto. The host nation had never before lost their opening game in any European Championship since the 1980 expansion, but then only one - France in 1984 - had progressed to the final prior to Portugal.

Final rematch
What is not unique is a final matching two sides that met in their opening group game. In 1988 the Netherlands started by losing 1-0 to the Soviet Union, but revenge came by a 2-0 scoreline when it really mattered. And in 1996 Germany beat the Czech Republic 2-0 in Manchester, and needed a golden goal to repeat the trick by a 2-1 scoreline at Wembley.

Lucky Lisbon
The venue may be a lucky omen for Portugal, though. While Greece's only trip to Lisbon was the victory against France in the Estádio José Alvalade, Portugal have already beaten Russia and England in the Estádio da Luz as well as seeing off Spain and the Netherlands in the home of Sporting Clube de Portugal.

Last updated: 03/07/04 14.26CET

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