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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 June, 2004, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
Greece emerge from shadows
By Paul Fletcher
Our man in Portugal

Georgios Karagounis
Forget all the cliches about Greeks bearing gifts - their team at Euro 2004 are out to take what they can.

After causing arguably the biggest shock in the history of the tournament by defeating hosts Portugal in the opening game, Greece have already set their sights on qualifying for the quarter-finals.

"We have no time to celebrate because we play Russia on Wednesday and have to stay focused," Bolton midfielder Stylianos Giannakopoulos told BBC Sport.

"We have to make sure we stay fit mentally and don't have our heads in the clouds."

Such a professional attitude is essential for the modern player but the Greek supporters celebrating in Porto did not feel hampered by any such constraints - and with good reason.

Greek football has a miserable record in major finals.

Greece lost all their games at the European Championship 24 years ago and fared no better at the World Cup in the USA in 1994.

Going into Saturday's match they had failed to score a single goal when it mattered most and conceded 12.

And given that no host country had lost the opening match at a European Championship since the modern format was introduced, the omens were hardly promising for the Greek team.

We have three points now and sometimes you can qualify with four
Nikos Dabizas

But Greece's German coach Otto Rehhagel has brought some much needed organisation to the team.

They topped a qualifying group that included Spain and Bolton's Giannakopoulos was quick to acknowledge the impact Rehhagel has had.

"All the players like him and play for him," added Giannakopoulos. "He loves us and we love him."

Rehhagel has transformed Greece.

Shedding aside their image as a team that crumbles away from home, Greece proved against Portugal that as well as being well-organised they are also dangerous in attack.

And they have also shown that they are capable of exploiting the fallibility of other teams.

"I said in the press conference before the game that Portugal would be very, very nervous playing in front of their own fans," stated Giannakopoulos.

"It was something they could not avoid and we took advantage of that."

Stylianos Giannakopoulos
Giannakopoulos paid tribute to Rehhagel

Veteran defender Nikos Dabizas sat out the game through injury but was quick to put into historical context Greece's achievement.

"It is a massive day - the biggest ever in Greek football," he told BBC Sport.

"The whole nation is very proud because we managed to upset one of the favourites to win the tournament.

"It was a huge boost for us for the remainder of the tournament."

Cars took to the streets in Athens on Saturday celebrating the historic win.

But, as the Greek squad made their way back to their training camp just outside Porto, they had already moved on.

"We have three points now and sometimes you can qualify with four," added Dabizas.

"We know that in our last group game we have Russia and if we beat them we will qualify."

On the evidence of their performance against Portugal, they showed they are more than capable of matching their ambitions.

Links to more Euro 2004 stories


Highlights: Portugal 1-2 Greece


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