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For a tournament in which the big names have so often failed to deliver what they promised, it was fitting that UEFA EURO 2004™ was ultimately won by rank outsiders. Greece's incredible achievement was a triumph for teamwork and camaraderie, and after another never-say-die performance in the final no one can begrudge them their finest hour.
Their fans at the Estádio de Luz came to their team's support when they most needed them, midway through the first half when Portugal were threatening to take the game away from them, before Angelos Charisteas' header early in the second half crowned a stunningly successful Greek campaign. While not a single Greek supporter vacated the stadium before Theo Zagorakis had lifted the Henri Delaunay trophy, many Portuguese players and spectators also lingered to pay their respects which was good to see.
In the end it never quite happened for the hosts: Luís Figo, so influential in the semi-final, seemed jaded after those efforts and hard though the likes of Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo tried, they did not have the weapons they needed to break down a Greek defence in which Traianos Dellas was once again an imposing figure.
At 65, Otto Rehhagel became the oldest man to coach a side to victory in these championships, and the first to do so as a foreigner. Whether Rehhagel will be able to resist the overtures of his native Germany remains to be seen, but what is sure is that he will be revered in Greece for as long as he chooses to remain.
"It was an unusual achievement for Greek football and especially for European football," Rehhagel said. "The team played great football. We took advantage of our chances. The opponent was technically better than us but we took advantage of our chances. We should have made it 2-0. The Greeks made football history today. It's a sensation."
Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said: "We ask forgiveness from all the Portuguese because we weren't able to achieve the goal that we all wanted. It's hard to lose this way ... to play a game this way, without goals. They won defensively. They won because they knew how to play in that way.
'Hard to accept'
"The Greeks had more quality in what they are good at. They were superior in the high balls, in the set-pieces and in the individual positioning. This is football. If we lose focus we may suffer a goal and that's what happened. The Greeks play defensively and they know how to do it. They are always waiting for the mistake of the opponent. It is very hard to accept it, but we must accept it. On behalf of us all, we are sorry for not winning the EURO. Let's now hope we can organise the team well for the next [FIFA] World Cup."
'Rejoice and celebrate'
Goalscoring hero Charisteas said: "We're the champions of Europe. We're the best team in Europe. We deserved it. It's very significant, I'm very happy and very moved. I call on all Greeks to rejoice and celebrate today. I believe this is a unique moment, which many of us may never experience again and I believe we deserved it.
'No way we could lose'
"We got this far by getting past very big teams, and today we came against a very strong Portugal. Despite this, we were able to win the trophy. It's the best moment in my career. I thought that there is no way we could lose the cup today. At that moment I didn't know how, but I knew that we were going to lift [the trophy] today."
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