Greece Beats France 1-0 and Qualifies for Semi-Finals in Euro 2004
LISBON (Reuters/ANA) – Greeks around the country on Saturday celebrated a surprise win by their national soccer team in the Euro 2004 championship, which knocked out holders France with a 1-0 quarter-final victory. That was the biggest upset in European Championship history. Greeks took to the streets after the stunning victory, staging all-night impromptu parties in cities around the country, illuminated by fireworks.
The team’s German coach, Otto Rehhagel, said his players had shown a correct use of strategy and tactics coupled with hard work and discipline.
Welcoming the victory were politicians and public figures including Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, main opposition leader George Papandreou, national Olympics organiser Gianna Daskalaki-Angelopoulou, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni, Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou, Deputy Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, and Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece.
The president of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, also congratulated the team.
Greece, among the rank outsiders when the tournament started, scored the only goal after 65 minutes when Angelos Haristeas rose unchallenged to power a header past French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez from six metres.
It was the third time in four matches that France had fallen behind but this time there was no way back. Their dream of becoming the first team to retain the Henri Delaunay trophy is over and Greece will now face the Czech Republic or Denmark in the semi-finals. It is the first time in its history the Greek national soccer team qualifies for the semi-finals in an international tournament.
The demise of Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry and co. will be regretted by most neutrals. But Jacques Santini’s side had only themselves to blame after another listless display resulted in them joining England, Spain, Italy and Germany on the Euro 2004 scrapheap.
France coach Jacques Santini said he was sad that he hadn’t bowed out by defending the title successfully.
“It is a big disappointment because the adventure has come to an end when we could have hoped to go all the way,” said the 52-year-old, who is due to coach Spurs for the forthcoming season.
“In the first half, the Greeks deserved to score but after half-time the reverse was true.
“However once we went behind we seemed to want to play as fast as possible.”
Charisteas basked in the glory and said it was a well deserved victory.
“I believe this is the greatest moment in Greek football. All Greeks must be proud today, wherever they are, they should smile and rejoice at this victory,” he said.
“We put in a great effort against a great team and I believed that we proved, particularly to those that have come from Greece to watch us, that it was because of our effort that we’re here and not because of luck. We deserve to be where we now are.
“Now that we have reached this point, everything is possible.”
Over the 90 minutes, Greece were worthy winners against a French side that never got anywhere close to the level of performance many expected them to produce in their first encounter in the knockout stage of the competition.
Greece had enjoyed the better of an uninspiring first half.
Demis Nikolaidis was the first to test Fabien Barthez, with a 25-yard drive, and the Greeks were unlucky not to take a 15th-minute lead when Konstantinos Katsouranis flicked a Georgios Karagounis free-kick on to the inside of the post.
Barthez threw himself to his left to smother the ball as it spun back towards him and referee Anders Frisk waved away the Greek appeals that the ball had already crossed the line.
France’s only chance of the opening period came ten minutes later. Zidane sent Bixente Lizarazu to the byline and the left-back’s cross was perfectly judged for Henry but the Arsenal striker directed his header wide.
Another Katsouranis effort did not overly trouble Barthez, but the French goalkeeper was almost caught out when the impressive Panagiotis Fyssas cut inside William Gallas on the left flank.
The midfielder unleashed a dipping left-foot shot that forced Barthez into a frantic scramble to get back to his line and tip the ball over.
The start of the second half brought a change of gear from France.
Henry tried his luck with an acrobatic volley on the turn that was deflected wide. Then Lizarazu provided a flashback to his younger days by gliding past two defenders and deep into the box before his progress was halted by a last-ditch tackle.
It was still not until the 64th minute of the match however that Greece’s goalkeeper, Antonios Nikopolidis, had a serious save to make, which he did with a dive to his left to collect Henry’s effort from just outside the area.
But just as it seemed France were on the verge of assuming control of the match, Greece produced their winner.
Theodoros Zagorakis was afforded acres of space on the right of the French box and the Greece captain exploited it to the tilt.
A deft first touch carried him to the edge of the area and the former Leicester City star’s chip was equally precise, allowing Charisteas to power an unstoppable header high past Barthez’s left hand from eight yards out.
French coach Jacques Santini reacted immediately by replacing the ineffective David Trezeguet with Louis Saha and defensive midfielder Olivier Dacourt with Sylvain Wiltord.
But the Greeks dogged commitment to getting all ten outfield players behind the ball ensured the changes did little to influence a match that was slowly slipping away from the defending champions.
France’s last chance to cling on to their title fell to Henry with just over three minutes left but, once again, his header was directed wide of the target.