Goals from Georgios Karagounis and Angelos Basinas gave Greece a deserved victory and provided a massive setback to Portugal's hopes of winning UEFA EURO 2004™ on home soil, despite Cristiano Ronaldo's late consolation.
It was the first time the hosts had lost the opening match of a UEFA European Championship, but in truth it was a disappointing display from Portugal, who gave away possession far too easily. Greece, on the other hand, played with great freedom and assurance, none more so than Angelos Charisteas.
Nikolaidis in reserve
With Luiz Felipe Scolari having unexpectedly announced the Portugal lineup on the eve of the game, Maniche starting in midfield alongside Costinha on the FC Porto pair's club ground, the main speculation surrounded the fitness of Greece's No1 striker, Themistoklis Nikolaidis, who began on the bench.
In his absence, Charisteas took up a position just behind Zisis Vryzas in attack and in the very first minute they combined to create a great chance. Following Luís Figo's reckless challenge on Karagounis, Vryzas escaped down the left and crossed low. The ball ran invitingly for Charisteas, but the SV Werder Bremen man swung and missed it completely.
However, the visitors went ahead in the seventh minute, and having been the first to settle it was not a complete surprise. There were audible groans as Paulo Ferreira lost possession to Karagounis midway inside his own half. The FC Internazionale midfield player strode forward and planted a low right-footed shot from 15 metres past the despairing dive of Ricardo.
Two minutes later it could have been worse for Portugal. This time it was a former Porto player at fault as Jorge Andrade slipped, but Charisteas shot carelessly wide. Then Panagiotis Fyssas volleyed just over from Vryzas's measured cross.
By now Figo had been stung into action, and when he crossed for Pauleta at the near post Traianos Dellas had to be alert to the danger. Andrade, up for a set-piece, then shot narrowly wide and Pauleta miscontrolled a Maniche through-ball as Portugal began to respond to the situation.
Rui Costa close
But Greece were still playing with confidence and Charisteas sent a powerful header over the bar from a corner before testing Ricardo with a more speculative long-range effort. At the other end a Rui Costa header was just off target from Paulo Ferreira's cross, and Simão Sabrosa slipped past Dellas only for Antonios Nikopolidis to race from his line and rescue Greece.
With Rui Costa and Simão Sabrosa exerting little influence on proceedings, it was no surprise to see Deco, the darling of the local crowd, and Ronaldo taking their places for the second half. Greece, meanwhile, replaced Karagounis with the more defensive-minded Konstantinos Katsouranis.
Ronaldo's first contribution, though, was to give away the penalty that Basinas converted to double the Greek lead in the 51st minute. Costinha's short pass had been intercepted and Charisteas played Giourkas Seitaridis through into the penalty area. Ronaldo, tracking back, sent the Greek full-back tumbling and referee Pierluigi Collina pointed instantly to the spot.
Most inside the stadium were stunned, Portuguese and Greek alike, although the latter fans soon started to believe what they were seeing and chanted the name of their German coach. For Portugal, Figo and Ronaldo tried to combine on the left, and the young Manchester United FC winger sent over one or two useful crosses but there was never anyone on the end of them.
There was no questioning Figo's commitment as he tried to prise an opening, shooting over from a free-kick he had won. There was a similar result for Deco from a tighter angle, and eight minutes from time a goalbound effort from Ronaldo deflected to safety off Seitaridis. Substitute Nuno Gomes was then foiled by Nikopolidis on the line before Figo had a shot blocked by Dellas. From the resulting Figo corner, Ronaldo headed in, but it was too little, too late for the host nation.
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