Greeks prepare for Euro final

The day after their stunning semifinal victory over the Czech Republic, Greek soccer team players resumed training for Sunday’s final of the Euro 2004 championship against hosts Portugal. After a closed-door training session in the morning in their camp near the northern town of Braga, the team left yesterday afternoon for Lisbon, where the final will take place on Sunday, 7.45 p.m. local time (9.45 p.m. Greek time), at the Luz Stadium. The team is suffering no injuries but will miss midfielder Giorgos Karagounis, suspended for the game via yellow cards. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and opposition leader George Papandreou will both attend the final along with several other public officials, some of whom, such as Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos and chief Athens Olympics organizer Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, are already in Portugal where they attended Thursday’s game. Congratulations continued to pour in yesterday from all quarters: President Costis Stephanopoulos; ministers; mayors; church officials, including the patriarchs of Alexandria, Petros, and Jerusalem, Irenaios, and Archbishop of Athens Christodoulos. They all praised the team spirit and the passion that brought the national team its unexpected success, the first in a major soccer tournament. Whatever the outcome of the final, the team is assured of a triumphant welcome home. The Ministry of Culture, which oversees sports, and the City of Athens announced yesterday they will organize a special event at the Panatheniac Stadium on Monday, at 8:30 p.m. Some 6,000 Greeks are expected to fly to Lisbon to attend the match, according to Yiannis Evangelou, president of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA). An unknown number of the 8,000 who attended the semifinal at Porto, many of whom have not secured a ticket to the match yet, will head to Lisbon. Many will be hoping to buy tickets from Czechs and other optimistic fans who had booked a ticket to a match they no longer care to see. Among them is Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who had appeared on Thursday night before 20,000 of his compatriots ready to watch the match on a giant screen in Prague’s Old Town Square to announce the fact. «The president is not going to attend the final, naturally,» a spokesman said yesterday morning.