It was a magical run at Euro 2004

No matter what highlights we look back to in the year just passed, they are overshadowed by the national soccer team’s sensational Euro 2004 triumph. The team’s magical three-week run in Portugal shed light on Greece as a paradoxical miracle while adding a trendier dimension to the country’s image abroad. Here was a squad from Europe’s less disciplined eastern zone that functioned as a model team and yielded results usually reserved for the continent’s more developed neighbors. Foreigners vacationing on the Greek islands rushed to buy national team jerseys and then get intoxicated with euphoric locals. Greeks themselves, traditional outsiders, discovered the rewards of self-discipline, partnership and strategy. Euro 2004 naturally draws parallels to two major international achievements by Greek underdogs, the national team’s European basketball triumph in 1987 and Voula Patoulidou’s Olympic gold in the women’s 100-meter hurdles at Barcelona. Like all forms of intoxication, the joy of this experience will not last forever, but boy, did this struggling nation need it.

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