National squad in Euro shocker

Defying all expectations, Greece beat hosts Portugal at the curtain raiser for the Euro 2004 soccer championships on Saturday in what national coach Otto Rehhagel described as the greatest ever victory for a Greek team. The stunning 2-1 win finally laid to rest the dismal ghost of Greece’s previous participation in a major international soccer tournament, when the national squad lost all three of its first-round matches in the 1994 World Cup, conceding 10 goals and scoring nary a one. «I don’t want to exaggerate, but this is the greatest victory for any Greek team, ever,» Rehhagel enthused. «Tomorrow is Sunday, and I hope all Greeks will put out flags on their balconies.» After missing a good scoring opportunity in the first minute of play at the Dragao Stadium in Oporto, Greece sank its first goal in the seventh minute with a 25-meter low shot by Giorgos Karagounis – who hastened to celebrate with some of the 3,000 Greek fans in the 50,000-strong crowd. The second goal came six minutes into the second half, after Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo brought Giourkas Seitaridis down in the penalty box. Veteran Italian referee Pierluigi Collina awarded the penalty, which Angelos Bassinas converted as the goalkeeper, Ricardo, dived in the other direction. Portugal upped the pressure, but could do no better than Ronaldo’s 94th minute goal. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis congratulated the team. «With this historic victory, our national team won the respect of all sport-loving Europeans and deeply touched all Greeks,» he said. «I wish them similar success during their next games.» Greece now faces Spain on Wednesday.

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