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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 June, 2004, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Portugal kick off Euro 2004
Dragao Stadium, Porto
A party preceded the opening match
The Euro 2004 championships have begun with the shock defeat of host nation Portugal by Greece, who won 2-1.

An opening ceremony before the game in Dragao, Porto, got the three-week football festival under way with a tribute to the Portuguese people.

The pitch was transformed into a sea to reflect the nation's sailing heritage, watched by 52,000 celebrating fans.

Sixteen teams are taking part and France are reigning champions, having beaten Italy to win the trophy in 2000.

Euro 2004 is the 12th tournament to be contested by Europe's elite national teams, the first held back in 1960.

All of the matches will take place in newly-rebuilt stadia, after the Portugese spent millions upgrading 10 venues.

Security has also been increased, amid fears England supporters will repeat the riots which marred the tournament in Belgium four years ago.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has urged fans to behave, after European football's governing body Uefa suggested teams could be thrown out of the competition if there is trouble.

However, most fans will be hoping to enjoy a true festival of football, which culminates in the final in Lisbon on Sunday 4 July.

There were colourful scenes in Porto on Saturday, with cars, taxis, buses and even ships on the river Douro flying the Portuguese flag.

They were complemented by the blue and white banners of several thousand hopeful Greek fans.

Portugal, France and Italy were all heavily backed as likely winners, with England, who play France on Saturday, tipped as potential semi-finalists.

But with captain Beckham and the likes of Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen all fit - unlike two years ago at the World Cup - coach Eriksson is confident.

The European Championship has not been kind to England historically - except for Euro 96 when they hosted the tournament - but BBC Sport football presenter, and former England star, Gary Lineker is hopeful.

"I may be biased, but England could and should cause at least a bit of a stir on the field in Portugal," he said.

"Their pool game against France will be the true indicator of how far Eriksson's side has come and how far they can go. David Beckham against club colleague Zinedine Zidane should make for a great duel."

Follow Euro 2004 on the BBC

Make sure you stay with the BBC for the best coverage of all the action from Euro 2004 - on TV, radio, online and Ceefax.

In addition to our normal comprehensive text coverage, you will be able to listen to every match live on the BBC Sport website as well as watch video highlights afterwards.

Links to more Euro 2004 stories



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