After losing their first two UEFA EURO 2004 qualifiers, the idea that Greece would even make it to Portugal seemed far-fetched. They won six straight matches to reach the finals, and once there defeated the hosts in the opener and again, memorably, in the showpiece to lift the trophy. Theodoros Zagorakis captained Otto Rehhagel's side and was named Player of the Tournament for his stubborn performances in a midfield that kept Greece's superb defence well protected. Zagorakis reveals they always had belief in their abilities and describes the epic conclusion to the final as Greece held on to their 1-0 lead.
We were experiencing the joy of qualifying. We were all very glad. The expectations were very simple:
we wanted to go there and show that our run over the previous two years was no fluke. Also that all the results that got us top of our group and led to our qualification were no fluke.
The opening match in Porto...
Perhaps that was what the Portuguese believed, that it was a party. We had a totally different opinion. We knew that, if we started well in the tournament, we could progress. And so it happened. We were feeling good, we showed that we knew what we were after on the pitch.
I remember we were performing better than our opponents, who were the hosts; they had the fans on their side, they had more illustrious names. But in football there are also other things that matter and the Greek squad showed that.
The closing stages of the final...
Once we had scored, it was difficult for the opposition to beat 11 players who passionately defended what they had achieved. That was the Greek team. Whoever got to play fought tooth and nail for the team ... the most important thing is that we didn't panic.
Instead of getting tired, we started covering more ground and it became evident that we wanted the cup more. We were pressured, especially in the last minutes. But we didn't panic, we didn't surrender. And
when the referee ended the match, it was as if the lights went out ... another blank spot in my memory ... the constant smile of an idiot on my face for I don't know how many minutes ... unbelievable moments.
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