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Football

Heartbreak for hosts as Greece win


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Team effort. Greek players huddle around the trophy after their remarkable success.
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Greece upsets host Portugal to win its first European Championship.
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LISBON, Portugal -- It was heartbreak for hosts Portugal as a 57th minute goal from Angelos Charisteas gave unheralded Greece a 1-0 victory in the Euro 2004 final in Lisbon, one of the biggest upsets in international football history.

Charisteas met an Angelos Basinas corner with a firm header with keeper Ricardo stranded to stun the home crowd in the Stadium of Light.

Portugal made frantic efforts to equalize and Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo went close but Otto Rehhagel's unlikely men held out.

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said the defeat by Greece was hard to take.

"We ask forgiveness from all the Portuguese because we weren't able to achieve the goal that we all wanted," he said.

"It's hard. 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."

The pattern for the match was set in a first half that saw Portugal frustrated and the Greeks looking dangerous on the counter attack.

Portugal had the majority of possession but failed to create clear cut openings, a low shot from semifinal hero Nuno Maniche flying narrowly wide after a corner.

Charisteas, whose goal beat defending champions France, also went close but was denied by the feet of Ricardo after a clever Greek move.

Miguel had the first shot at goal in the 14th minute when he burst clear down the right and his low angled drive was fingertipped away for a corner by the diving 'keeper, Antonios Nikopolidis, although it was going wide.

Greek joy

The Greeks finally broke the deadlock in the 57th minute with a similar set piece to the goal they scored in extra time against the Czech Republic in the seminals.

Seitaridis went on a speedy run down the right and was stopped by a fine block by Ronaldo who had chased back.

The ball rolled for a corner and Basinas floated it into the six meter box for Charisteas to time his run perfectly and head powerfully home from five meters out right in front of his own fans.

The Portuguese almost hit back immediately, Ronaldo firing a 20-meter shot which was too hot for goalkeeper Nikopolidis.

Scolari had do something special and he sent on veteran Rui Costa for Costinha with 30 minutes remaining and then Nuno Gomes for the ineffective Pedro Pauleta.

Ronaldo almost got the equalizer with 16 minutes remaining he a chased a long clearance from goalkeeper Ricardo Pereira and got clear of the defense with just the keeper to beat. Taking the ball at pace, however, he was unable to keep it under control and, with Nikopolidis off his line, lobbed it over the bar.

Ronaldo got through again with 10 minutes to go but Traianos Dellas got back to block the teenager's shot. Then defender Ricardo Carvalho joined the attack to produce a low left foot 25 meter shot the keeper couldn't hold but no one was there to take advantage of the fumble.

In the final minute, Figo almost forced extra time when he weaved into space to fire a low left foot shot which was deflected just past the post.

The Greeks had come into Euro 2004 as a 100-1 outsider not having won a single game in a major championship. But Rehhagel's team beat Portugal 2-1 in the opening match of group games and went on oust defending champion France 1-0 in the quarters and strong favorite Czech Republic 1-0 in the semis.

Scolari, who guided Brazil to its fifth World Cup crown two years ago, aimed to become the first man to guide two different teams to the world and European titles.

Both he and Rehhagel, who is German, were bidding to become the first foreign coach to win the European title.

The Stadium of Light was ablaze with color with some 15000 Greek fans massed together in one corner of the stadium, most of them bathed in sunlight a half hour before kickoff time.

The rest of the ground was a sea of red and green as Portuguese fans turned out in force to roar on their team to a possible first triumph.

Among the VIP's in the crowd were the Portuguese President, Jorge Sampaio, and the Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso and Greek premier Costas Caramanlis.


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