Greece seeks second Euro win

In the most crucial match ever played by a Greek national soccer squad, Greece will fight to beat Spain this evening to win a berth in the quarterfinals of the Euro 2004 championship in Portugal. «My team feels in high spirits, and we are going to win our next match against Spain,» Greece’s miracle-working German coach Otto Rehhagel said yesterday. «We hope that we can get through to the next round, and we want to take advantage of this opportunity.» Until last Saturday, such remarks from the coach of a team that has only played in the final rounds of two major international soccer tournaments – with miserable results – would have been unthinkable. But in the opening match of Euro 2004 in Oporto, Greece achieved a stunning 2-1 victory over hosts Portugal. Spain, Greece’s fellow group leader and one of Europe’s strongest sides, will be seeking revenge for its 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Greece during last year’s qualifying games, which forced coach Inaki Saez’s men to sweat through two playoffs to reach the finals. «It is the most disciplined Greek side that I’ve seen,» Saez said yesterday. «The game against Portugal was the best it has played in a long time.» Although Saez – like Rehhagel – refused to reveal his lineup until the last moment, he offered a glimpse of Spain’s tactics for today against a team admired for its solid defending. «Scoring the first goal is is a weapon we have to use,» he said. «Greece is a team that, if you get in the first goal, has problems because it’s not a team that is accustomed to playing on the attack… It’s a team that plays very well at 0-0, but has a lot of problems when the other side takes the lead.» The game starts at 7 p.m. Greece plays Russia on Sunday, in its last first-round match.