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Greece edge through despite Russia loss in EURO 2004 Group A

Russia 2-1 Greece
Greece advanced to the last eight at Spain's expense by the slenderest of margins after losing to Russia.

Theodoros Zagorakis shows his relief as Greece reach the last eight
Theodoros Zagorakis shows his relief as Greece reach the last eight ©Getty Images

Greece nervously edged into the quarter-finals despite losing their last Group A game 2-1 to Russia. Zisis Vryzas' goal two minutes before half-time ensured that Otto Rehhagel's side qualified along with Portugal, by virtue of having scored more goals than Spain.

Having started the day top of the group, Greece's hopes of reaching the last eight were rocked as Russia raced into a two-goal lead inside 17 minutes. Dmitri Kirichenko opened the scoring inside two minutes, the quickest goal in a UEFA European Championship finals match, then Dmitri Bulykin took advantage of some anxious Greece defending to head in a second. Yet Vryzas' well-taken strike ultimately saw Greece through to the quarter-finals of a major tournament for the first time in their history.

EURO 2004: All you need to know

Rehhagel opted for an attacking formation, despite his side needing just a point to be sure of a place in the last eight. Panathinaikos FC striker Dimitris Papadopoulos was handed his tournament debut in a three-pronged attack alongside Vryzas and Angelos Charisteas, while Angelos Basinas bolstered a midfield that had lost Stelios Giannakopoulos to injury and Georgios Karagounis to suspension.

Russia, already eliminated after two defeats, made seven changes to the side that lost to Portugal last time out. Vladislav Radimov played the anchor role in a new-look midfield that had Rolan Gusev on the right, Andrei Karyaka on the left and Dmitri Alenichev in the hole behind Bulykin and Kirichenko.

It was Kirichenko's first taste of action in Portugal and the PFC CSKA Moskva striker wasted no time making his mark, scoring Russia's first goal of the campaign. Greece lost concentration at the back as Kostas Katsouranis missed his attempted clearance, allowing Kirichenko to race clear and steer a right-foot shot past Antonios Nikopolidis.

Watch Greece's EURO 2004 semi-final winner

Greece were soon pressing for an equaliser, but their nerves were all too apparent against a Russia side playing without pressure. Alenichev and Gusev looked dangerous every time they broke and Russia soon doubled their lead. Gusev's right-wing corner picked out Bulykin unmarked at the near post and his stooping header flew into the roof of the net.

Kariaka blazed over the crossbar from close range in the 25th minute, before Charisteas squandered a glorious chance to get Greece back in the game. Stelios Venetidis crossed low from the left, but the SV Werder Bremen forward scooped his shot over from six metres out.

The opportunity gave Greece hope, however, and before the interval they struck. Papadopoulos headed a cross from the right into the path of Vryzas, whose clever chest control took him past Roman Sharonov before chipping the ball clinically over goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev and into the net.

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Russia coach Georgi Yartsev made a double change at the break, with goalscorer Bulykin making way for Dmitri Sychev and Igor Semshov replacing Karyaka, but Greece were soon on the offensive. Vasilis Tsiartas, who had come on for Basinas just seconds before Greece scored, tested Malafeev with a low 20-metre drive on 50 minutes, then saw his corner headed over by Charisteas.

News that Portugal had taken the lead against Spain was greeted by cheers from the sprinkling of Portuguese fans in the stadium, but seemed to inject more nerves into the Greece team. Russia looked to take advantage and Kirichenko struck an acrobatic volley over the crossbar before Sychev stung the hands of Nikopolidis with a raking drive as Greece held on.

EURO 2004: Team of the Tournament


Otto Rehhagel is congratulated as Greece qualify
Otto Rehhagel is congratulated as Greece qualifyBongarts/Getty Images

Russia: Malafeev; Evseev, Bugaev, Sharonov (Sennikov 56), Anyukov; Karyaka (Semshov 46), Radimov, Alenichev (c), Gusev; Kirichenko, Bulykin (Sychev 46)
Substitutes: Akinfeev, Izmailov, Kerzhakov, Bystrov, Loskov, Aldonin
Coach: Georgi Yartsev

Greece: Nikopolidis; Venetidis (Fyssas 89), Kapsis, Dellas, Seitaridis; Zagorakis (c), Katsouranis, Basinas (Tsiartas 42); Papadopoulos (Nikolaidis 70), Vryzas, Charisteas
Substitutes: Chalkias, Katergiannakis, Dabizas, Giannakopoulos, Kafes, Georgiadis, Goumas, Lakis
Coach: Otto Rehhagel

Referee: Gilles Veissière (France)

Man of the Match: Dmitri Kirichenko (Russia)