The official website for European football

Underdogs Greece have their day

Underdogs Greece have their day
Theodoros Zagorakis lifts trophy after Greece defeated Portugal 1-0 in the final ©Getty Images

Before UEFA EURO 2004 kicked off, the normal talk was of which superstar and their team would come out on top in the battle for the European title. In the end, a totally unsung group of players were to triumph in one of European football's greatest surprises.

Greece went into the competition as rank outsiders. However, few people had taken notice of their increasingly impressive qualifying campaign, in which they lost their first two matches, but won the next six, conceding no goals in that excellent run.

In what was a splendid month-long festival of football in the Portuguese sun, the Greeks, a solid, pragmatic side which played to their strengths, confounded one team after another, and fully deserved their title in the end. They were coached by Otto Rehhagel, a veteran German who had massive club experience, in particular with Werder Bremen and FC Bayern München in his native country.

The shrewd Rehhagel succeeded in knitting together his squad and coaxing them into an iron discipline that initially frustrated and eventually broke every opponent. In the opening match in Porto, they shocked the fervent home support by beating the Portuguese hosts 2-1.

In the quarter-finals, the holders France were unable to cope with Greece's determination and crashed to defeat. The semi-finals saw the Czech Republic, many people's competition favourites after some fine early displays, eliminated by an extra-time Greek silver goal, key man Pavel Nedvěd having departed injured in the first half.

The final itself in Lisbon was a tightly fought affair. Portugal, coached by Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari, had battled back from that opening-day shock, and were desperate to give their fans a memorable climax. But the Greeks had other ideas.

As in previous matches, a no-nonsense defence marshalled by the tough central defender Traianos Dellas, a combative midfield led by eventual player of the tournament Theodoris Zagorakis, and an opportunist striker in the shape of Angelos Charisteas broke Portugal's hearts. A single Charisteas header from a corner near the hour-mark gave Greece a triumph that was beyond their wildest dreams.

For some of the continents biggest stars the tournament was clouded with disappointment. Zinédene Zidane and France, despite a dramatic group-match comeback to beat England, never regained past heights. England and David Beckham promised much, fired by brilliant teenage striker Wayne Rooney, but fell to Portugal in a dramatic quarter-final penalty shoot-out.

Spain failed to get out of second gear, and the much-fancied Dutch came unstuck against Portugal in the semi-final. Ultimately, it was a team without recognisable stars that conquered Europe. Greece's stunning success provided an example to the rest of the continent: with hard work, belief, the necessary good fortune, and unbending team spirit, anything is possible.

Last updated: 10/05/16 9.16CET




The final - 04/07/2004

Did you know?

New fact
1 of 10

History maker

1 of 1

Team of the Tournament



  • 2004: Greece
    2004: Greece
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) 2004
    Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) 2004
  • Milan Baroš (Czech Republic)
    Milan Baroš (Czech Republic)
  • Edwin van der Sar
    Edwin van der Sar
  • Angelos Charisteas (Greece)
    Angelos Charisteas (Greece)
  • Ricardo (Portugal) & David James (England) 2004
    Ricardo (Portugal) & David James (England) 2004
  • Milan Baroš (Czech Republic)
    Milan Baroš (Czech Republic)
  • Roy Makaay (Netherlands)
    Roy Makaay (Netherlands)
  • Jon Dahl Tomasson (Denmark)
    Jon Dahl Tomasson (Denmark)
  • Stefano Fiore (Italy)
    Stefano Fiore (Italy)
  • Thierry Henry & Zinédine Zidane (France)
    Thierry Henry & Zinédine Zidane (France)
  • Wayne Rooney (England)
    Wayne Rooney (England)
  • Nuno Gomes (Portugal)
    Nuno Gomes (Portugal)
  • Thodoros Zagorakis (Greece)
    Thodoros Zagorakis (Greece)
  • Oliver Kahn (Germany) & Aleksandrs Koliņko (Latvia)
    Oliver Kahn (Germany) & Aleksandrs Koliņko (Latvia)
  • Vladimír Šmicer, Tomáš Rosický & Pavel Nedvěd (Czech Republic)
    Vladimír Šmicer, Tomáš Rosický & Pavel Nedvěd (Czech Republic)
  • Jon Dahl Tomasson (Denmark)
    Jon Dahl Tomasson (Denmark)
  • Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden)
    Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden)
  • Wayne Rooney (England)
    Wayne Rooney (England)
  • Milan Rapaić (Croatia)
    Milan Rapaić (Croatia)
  • Angelos Charisteas (Greece)
    Angelos Charisteas (Greece)
  • Maniche (Portugal)
    Maniche (Portugal)
  • Milan Baroš (Czech Republic)
    Milan Baroš (Czech Republic)
  • Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands)
    Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands)
  • Thomas Helveg & Niclas Jensen (Denmark)
    Thomas Helveg & Niclas Jensen (Denmark)
  • Henrik Larsson (Sweden)
    Henrik Larsson (Sweden)
  • Jakob Kuhn (Switrzerland)
    Jakob Kuhn (Switrzerland)
  • Zinédine Zidane (France)
    Zinédine Zidane (France)
  • Juan Carlos Valeron & Vicente (Spain)
    Juan Carlos Valeron & Vicente (Spain)
  • Angelos Basinas (Greece)
    Angelos Basinas (Greece)
1 of 31

Also in this year

José Mourinho & Paulo Ferreira (FC Porto 2004)

European Cup winners: FC Porto (3-0 v AS Monaco FC)

European Footballer of the Year: Andriy Shevchenko (AC Milan)

ESM Golden Shoe winner: Thierry Henry (Arsenal FC)

Eurovision Song Contest winner: Ruslana (Ukraine) singing Wild Dances

Wangari Maathai (2004 Nobel Peace Prize)

Nobel Peace Prize winner: Wangari Maathai (for contribution towards sustainable development and peace, Kenya)

Men's Olympic 100m champion: Justin Gatlin (United States) running 9.85 seconds

Formula 1 world champion: Michael Schumacher (Germany) driving a Ferrari

Oscar for Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby

European Union (2004)

Key events
1 May – The European Union is enlarged by ten new member states: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Malta and Cyprus

15 May – Arsenal FC complete the 38-match English Premier League season unbeaten

3 November – George W Bush wins a second term in office as president of the United States