Greece scrapes through to Euro quarterfinals

Having successfully rid itself of the underachiever tag in two games against top-notch opponents, Greece’s national soccer team faltered yesterday to lose 2-1 to a Russian squad that had already been eliminated from the quarterfinals. Nevertheless, on the strength of its opening-game victory over Portugal and its subsequent draw against Spain, Greece scraped through to the second round of the Euro 2004 championships on a better goal average than the Spaniards. Spain succumbed 1-0 to a Portuguese side bent on advancing in the tournament it is hosting – having forked out enormous sums on new soccer stadiums. In a first half unsettlingly reminiscent of Greece’s dismal performances in previous major international tournaments, the Russians powered their way to a 2-0 lead with goals in the 2nd and 17th minutes. Having survived a number of close calls, Greece rallied to get in a goal two minutes before half time, with a shot by Zissis Vryzas. It was enough – although a third Russian goal could have spelled the end of Greece’s dream for a first-ever berth in the second round of a European championship. Portugal finished at the top of Group A, with six points, over Greece’s four. The quarterfinal – against the winner of Group B – is played on Thursday, though Greece will only learn who their opponent is today.